Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NASA’s Cassini locates plethora of plumes and hotspots at Enceladus


Newly released images from last November’s swoop over Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have exposed a forest of new jets spraying from prominent fractures crossing the south polar region and yield the most full temperature map to date of one fracture.

The new images from the imaging science subsystem and the complex infrared spectrometer teams also comprise the best 3-D image ever obtained of a “tiger stripe,” a fissure that sprays icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds.

There are also views of regions not well-mapped formerly on Enceladus, including a southern area with crudely circular tectonic patterns.

Enceladus persists to astound, said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

With each Cassini flyby, we learn more about its great activity and what makes this weird moon tick, he added.

Scientists intended to use this flyby to look for new or smaller jets not visible in previous images. In one mosaic, scientists count more than 30 individual geysers, with more than 20 that had not been seen before.

A latest map that combines heat data with visible-light images shows a 40-kilometer (25-mile) segment of the longest tiger stripe, known as Baghdad Sulcus.

The map show the correlation, at the highest resolution yet seen, among the geologically youthful surface fractures and the anomalously warm temperatures that have been recorded in the South Polar Region.

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