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Radar observations of Saturn's moons, Mimas, Enceladus and Tethys, show that Enceladus is acting as a "snow-cannon," coating itself and its neighbors with fresh water-ice particles to make them dazzlingly reflective. The extreme radar brightness also points to the presence of "boomerang" structures beneath the surface that boost the moons' efficiency in returning the microwave signals to the spacecraft. The results will be presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva by Dr. Alice Le Gall.
Dr. Le Gall and a team of researchers from France and the US have analyzed 60 radar observations of Saturn's inner moons, drawing from the full database of observations taken by the Cassini mission between 2004 and 2017. They found that previous reporting on these observations had underestimated the radar brightness by a factor of two.
Atmospheres - Saturn - Moons - Grains - Origins
Unprotected by any atmospheres, Saturn's inner moons are bombarded by grains of various origins which alter their surface composition and texture. Cassini radar observations can help assess these effects by giving insights into the purity of the satellites' water ice.
The extreme radar brightness is most likely related to the geysers that pump water from Enceladus's internal ocean into the region in which the three moons orbit. Ultra-clean water ice particles fall back onto Enceladus itself and precipitate as snow on the other moons' surfaces.
Dr - Le - Gall - LATMOS-UVSQ - Paris
Dr. Le Gall, of LATMOS-UVSQ, Paris, explained: "The super-bright radar signals that we observe require a snow cover that is at least a few tens of centimeters thick....
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