Saturn’s moon Enceladus seems to be acting like a “snow-cannon,” pumping water into Saturn’s orbit and covering its neighbouring moons in snow, which has made them highly reflective, new research suggests.
A team of researchers looked at 60 radar observations of Saturn’s inner moons — Mimas, Enceladus and Tethys — made by NASA’s spacecraft Cassini, and found that the radar brightness of these moons is double that than previously thought.
The researchers determined the extreme brightness is a result of ice and snow falling and coating their surfaces, which are not protected by any atmosphere, after it has been ejected by powerful geysers on Enceladus, in as process described in the report as being like a “giant snow cannon.”
The researchers believe that on Enceladus, the material would fall back as water-ice particles but on Mimas and Tethys it fall as snow, they believe. In all cases the snow and ice would make the surface of the three moons much more reflective.
In earlier research scientists have calculated the snow falling on Enceladus is so fine it takes 30,000 years to get a foot (30cm) of it. The good news though is it has been falling non stop for millions of years so anyone arriving there to ski in the future will probably need a snorkel.
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Images credit: NASA