In a first, James Webb Telescope snaps huge water plume ejected by Saturn’s moon Enceladus
James Webb Space Telescope has made one of the first-of-its-kind discoveries by capturing a massive plume from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has provided us with numerous stunning images despite its short duration of service. The space telescope has delivered amazing snaps of the early universe since its launch in December 2021 and now, it has added another feather to its cap. The Webb Telescope has captured water vapour plume jetting from Enceladus, one of Saturn's 124 moons. Not only is this the first time that such a large emission has been observed over such a large distance, it also gives scientists a direct look at how this contributes to the water supply of Saturn and its rings, according to NASA.
Enceladus is one of the most interesting targets in our solar system for scientific research as it has a large reservoir of salty water that is sandwiched between a rocky core and an icy crust. The water vapour plume observed by the Webb Telescope spanned over 6000 miles. In contrast, Enceladus is just 313 miles in diameter, meaning the plume was as big as 20 times the size of the moon.
Geronimo Villanueva of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said in a statement, “When I was looking at the data, at first, I was thinking I had to be wrong. It was just so shocking to detect a water plume more than 20 times the size of the moon. The water plume extends far beyond its release region at the southern pole.”
Although scientists have previously studied plumes that were hundreds of miles from the moon's surface captured by the Cassini orbiter which even flew through them, the James Webb Space Telescope and the sensitive tech onboard it, such as the NIRSpec instrument, helps NASA gain another context.
“In the Webb observations, not only was the plume huge but there was just water absolutely everywhere,” said Villanueva.
With the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists will observe Enceladus and its unique structure in the wake of future solar system satellite missions that will explore Saturn's icy moon.
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