JWST captured Enceladus’ plume spraying water nearly 10,000 kilometers into space

Friday, June 9, 2023 - 06:13 in Astronomy & Space

Enceladus’ famous plume dwarfs the moon itself. Geysers on Saturn’s icy moon spew water vapor nearly 10,000 kilometers into space, a distance  about 19 times the diameter of Enceladus, researchers report in a paper accepted in Nature Astronomy. If the geysers were on Earth, the plume would touch the edge of our planet’s atmosphere. NASA’s now-defunct Cassini spacecraft discovered almost two decades ago that Enceladus ejects salty water from a subsurface reservoir (SN: 5/2/06). But the spacecraft’s orbit around Saturn meant it was too close to the moon to see the plume’s true extent. In November, the James Webb Space Telescope turned its powerful infrared camera on Enceladus for the first time, gazing at the moon for about four minutes. JWST’s vantage point from across our solar system let it see the plume extending at least 9,600 kilometers from the south pole. “Seeing it so big, water being everywhere, it was kind of a...

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