Destination Enceladus

Listen 00:06:53

The Cassini Saturn orbiter (which launched from Earth in 1997) took a close pass by the intriguing moon Enceladus last Wednesday. The objective:

  • Get a really close-up look at the plumes of water vapor escaping from vents at the southern hemisphere of the moon to determine if any molecular hydrogen is present in the vapor to find out if there are hydrothermal activity in the Enceladan ocean. Elevated ridges in the surface are 200 degrees warmer than surrounding landscape. Enceladan atmosphere is 85% water vapor. These plumes of water are supplying material to the outer ring of Saturn.
  • To do a quick chemical analysis to look for organics and finally
  • To see through what kind of opening the water vapor is escaping -a hole to create a jet or through a fissure creating a curtain of escaping vapor.
  • Liquid water ocean under 20 miles of ice exposed to space.

In honor of the Fall Classic – the Baseball Constellation (aka Pegasus) can easily be seen in the night sky this week !
For early risers; in the pre-dawn sky: Venus right atop Mars early this week with the moon lining up right next to Jupiter on Friday morning then Venus on Saturday morning. Jupiter is above.

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