About the episode
While studying Enceladus – one of Saturn’s more than 80 moons – the James Webb Space Telescope spotted a huge cloud of water vapour.
The plume is the largest ever seen there and may contain the chemical ingredients necessary for life. Plumes of water vapor escaping from beneath the moon’s icy surface had been seen before and their composition studied, but now it appears the material could be spewed much further into space than previously thought. previously. Several times the size of the planet in distance.
In 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew past the plumes several times. For example, it has already been discovered that there is methane, carbon dioxide and ammonia in the clouds. Silica particles have also been detected, which may have come from the moon’s ocean floor. Yet Cassini couldn’t see up close what Webb now saw from afar and in less than 4.5 minutes: cold water vapors penetrating deep into space.
An article in preparation will detail exactly the quantity of water contained in the plume and the temperature of the steam. Well, the icy particles detected in 2005 likely contain a much higher concentration of organic matter than the water vapor that has now been spotted. It remains to be seen whether signs of life can also be found in the huge plume.
But the researchers say there will be enough new findings about Enceladus in the paper to surprise us. It is also known that the moon will be studied again in a next series of observations, six times longer than what has happened now. And there is also talk of a NASA mission to the Moon itself.
Learn more here: JWST spots largest plume of water yet spewed from Saturn’s moon.
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