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Enceladus Is Covered With A Dense Layer Of Snow

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Enceladus is covered with snow. The snow layer around the Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, is like a thick white blanket. According to recent studies, the fluffy material may be over 700 meters deep in certain areas.

According to Emily Martin and coworkers in the March 1 issue of Icarus, Martin is a planetary scientist who thinks Enceladus' impressive plume was more active in the past. The geysers on Enceladus, which are composed of water vapor and other elements, have interested planetary scientists ever since they were identified by the Cassini mission in 2005.

As planetary scientist Emily Martin puts it, "It's like Buffalo, but worse." Buffalo, New York is known for its harsh winters. According to a study published by Martin and coworkers in the March 1 issue of Icarus, the amount of snow on Enceladus indicates that the spectacular plume may have been more active in the past.

Facts About Enceladus

Saturn's ice ocean moon Enceladus is one of the most fascinating planets in the solar system. Enceladus is one of just a few of planets estimated to contain liquid water oceans behind their icy crust, and it shoots its ocean out into space, where a mission may collect a sample.

COPYRIGHT_WI: Published on https://washingtonindependent.com/w/enceladus-is-covered-with-snow/ by William Willis on 2023-01-16T02:02:11.191Z

Hydrothermal vents likely blast hot, mineral-rich water into the ocean on Enceladus, making it a planet with most of the components necessary for life. The surface of Enceladus is the brightest and whitest in the solar system.

The moon's shower of ice particles expands out into the space surrounding its orbit to produce Saturn's E ring, which is distinct from the ring created by Saturn's rings. Because of its tidal lock with Saturn, it always points in the same direction. The south polar area of Enceladus is virtually completely devoid of impact craters.

There are ice chunks the size of houses strewn around, and there are also tectonically sculpted sections. The NASA Cassini probe found in 2005 that frigid water particles and gas erupt from the moon's surface at speeds of 800 mph (400 km/h).

The discovery of Enceladus has led to new hopes in the quest for habitable planets. The icy crust of the Moon may be as thin as a few of miles (or a few kilometers) near the south pole, according to scientists. The plume's concentration of organic compounds was twenty times higher than predicted.

Enceladus: Saturn’s Incredible Ocean Moon

Water At Enceladus

Since the Cassini probe discovered the geysers on Enceladus in 2005 (made of water vapor and other substances), they have interested planetary scientists. A salty ocean lurking under a cold exterior is likely the source of the spray.

If you’re going to land a robot there, you need to understand what it’s going to be landing into.

- Martin, National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Some of the water goes to create one of Saturn’s rings. However, as Martin points out, the vast majority of it returns to the lunar surface as snow. Understanding the qualities of that snow — its thickness and how dense and compact it is — might help uncover Enceladus’ past, and set framework for future missions to this moon.

To calculate out how deep Enceladus’ snow is, Martin and colleagues went to Earth — especially, Iceland. Pit chains, which appear as lines of pockmarks on the ground when loose material like boulders, ice, or snow flows into a crack underground, may be seen in the island nation. Similar characteristics show up everywhere around the solar system, including Enceladus.

Snow Thickness Varies Across Enceladus Surface

One method proposed in the literature for determining the depth of the pits used geometry and the angle at which sunlight strikes the surface. With that information, we can calculate how deep the underlying material is where the pits are located. Martin and her coworkers were not sure whether the same method would work on Enceladus until they spent a few weeks in the field in Iceland in 2017 and 2018.

However, Martin admits that he has a hard time imagining how that much snow got there. It would take the whole lifespan of the solar system (4.5 billion years) to dump that much snow on the earth if the plume's spray was always what it is now. That's assuming the snow is very light and fluffy.

Martin argues that it is very improbable that the plume turned on immediately after the moon formed and has been unchanged ever since. But even if it did, the depth of the current layer would be far less than it is since subsequent layers of snow would have compacted the previous ones.

It makes me think we don’t have 4.5 billion years to do this. Instead, the plume might have been much more active in the past. We need to do it in a much shorter timeframe. You need to crank up the volume on the plume.

- Martin, National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Planetary scientist Shannon MacKenzie from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, thinks the method was ingenious. You can't measure the depth of the snow without rovers or astronauts to dig holes and see inside. Instead, "geology is being used quite skilfully by the writers as rovers and shovels."

Although MacKenzie did not contribute to the latest findings, she did direct a mission concept study for a potential orbiter and lander to Enceladus. The feasibility of a lander's landing site was a key factor in that analysis.

Key to those discussions was, what do we expect the surface to be?. The new paper could help “identify the places that are too fluffy to land in.

- Shannon MacKenzie, Johns Hopkins University

Final Words

Martin and colleagues used Cassini photos to determine that the thickness of the snow on Enceladus varied throughout the planet's surface. Its maximum thickness is 700 meters, and its depth varies widely over the landscape.

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About The Authors

William Willis

William Willis - William Willis is a freelance writer and social media manager who specializes in assisting finance professionals and Fintech entrepreneurs in growing their online audience and attracting more paying customers. William worked as a bank teller and virtual assistant for financial firms in the United States and the United Kingdom for six years before beginning her writing career. William is a strong force in the workplace, inspiring others to work hard and excel with his optimistic attitude and boundless energy. He enjoys hiking, crocheting, and playing video games with his children in his spare time.

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