01 September 2005

The moon with half an atmosphere (or less)

NASA are pleased to report that Enceladus only has an atmosphere near its south pole.

Picture the space tourists of the future: “We can’t possibly stay in Dunyazad! The place has absolutely no atmosphere!” Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

enceladus occultations

Another mind-boggling aspect of the reports echoing after Cassini most recently blazed a trail past Enceladus is the conclusion that the surface near the south pole may be as little as ten years old. No, not ten million. No, not even ten thousand. The scientists discussing this put a 1,000 year ceiling on it and said “When ice comes out of the ‘hot’ cracks, or “tiger stripes,’ at the south pole, it forms as fresh, crystalline ice. As the ice near the poles remains cold and undisturbed, it ages and converts to amorphous ice. Since this process is believed to take place over decades or less, the tiger stripes must be very young.”

Gotta love science. Never a dull moment. (-:

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