Snowy slopes of Saturn's moon

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Researchers report that Saturn's moon Enceladus is covered in superfine powdery snow. From National Geographic:

"The particles are only a fraction of a millimeter in size … even finer than talcum powder," study leader Paul Schenk, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, said in a statement. "This would make for the finest powder a skier could hope for."

The finding is based on new high-resolution pictures of Enceladus from NASA's Cassini orbiter, as well as global maps of color patterns that help reveal the ages of surface features. Above, an artist's rendering shows an active tiger stripe, including bluish regions that indicate freshly exposed water ice.
"Pictures: Saturn Moon Coated in Fresh Powder"

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  1. too bad that’s an artist’s rendering. should probably put that a little more prominently in this post imo

  2. You couldn’t ski on it though, since it’s too cold for the layer of liquid water to form on the ski;  you’d need heated skis (which, I guess, are well within the bounds of technological possibility for anyone capable of getting to Saturn in the first place.)

  3. Superfine!

    Though I wondered…not just could you really ski on it, but would you sink into it?  

    It reminds me of that old Arthur C. Clarke book A FALL OF MOONDUST (1961), which depicts areas of the moon where the moondust is so fine that it basically makes seas of dust, maybe 20 feet deep or so, that you’d sink into almost like quicksand.

    I don’t think anyone still thinks there’s phenomena like this on the moon, though, of course, the moon is a pretty big place and we’ve really only explored a tiny part of it.

    1. I don’t think anyone still thinks there’s phenomena like this on the moon, though, of course, the moon is a pretty big place and we’ve really only explored a tiny part of it.

      Clarke correctly predicted that thermal cycling of the surface rocks would create fine particles. The bit he missed was the creation of new rocks as Impact Breccia. The lakes of fines in that book would have turned back into brittle rock as they were hit by meteors, unfortunately. The crews did identify mounds of fines around medium sized craters. The stuff just puffs out into a ring in the edge of small craters. On the Earth it would blow away in a second.

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