Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Up in the sky II

More really interesting revelations about our solar system--
Saturn moon delights and baffles

By Jonathan Amos
BBC News science reporter

Space scientists say their discoveries about Saturn's moon Enceladus are stunning, if just a little baffling.

Using the instrument-packed Cassini probe, they have confirmed that the 500km-wide world has an atmosphere.

They have also seen a "hotspot" at the icy moon's south pole, which is riven with cracks dubbed "tiger stripes".

But the US and European scientists told a London meeting they could not yet explain fully the energetic processes driving all the activity on Enceladus...

The spacecraft made a special low pass of the moon on 14 July, crossing a mere 173km above the surface at its closest approach.

This allowed Cassini to make observations of unprecedented detail; and they backed up data obtained by the probe's magnetometer instrument on previous flybys that hinted at the presence of a water vapour atmosphere.

But that was just the start of what is now proving to be a fascinating and evolving story.

"We confirmed the signature that there was an atmosphere but it is strange atmosphere," Professor Michele Dougherty, from the UK's Imperial College and the lead scientist for the magnetometer instrument, told BBC News.

"It seems to be concentrated at the south pole and the best way to match our observations is that you have almost a cometary jet coming off the south pole."

Full Article at BBC WorldNews
How cool! :o)

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