Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photograph of the day

NASA has released this photograph of Enceladus, the sixth moon of the planet Saturn. Click the picture for a much larger view.

NASA describes the image as follows:

What's happening on the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus? Enormous ice jets are erupting. Giant plumes of ice have been photographed in dramatic fashion by the robotic Cassini spacecraft during this past weekend's flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Pictured above, numerous plumes are seen rising from long tiger-stripe canyons across Enceladus' craggy surface. Several ice jets are even visible in the shadowed region of crescent Enceladus as they reach high enough to scatter sunlight. Other plumes, near the top of the above image, appear visible just over the moon's sunlit edge. That Enceladus vents fountains of ice was first discovered on Cassini images in 2005, and has been under close study ever since. Continued study of the ice plumes may yield further clues as to whether underground oceans, candidates for containing life, exist on this distant ice world.

This also demonstrates that material from Enceladus (ejected by such eruptions, and also by collisions with meteorites and the like) is largely responsible for Saturn's E ring, the outermost and faintest of the famous rings surrounding that planet.


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