Despite our differences, humanity as a whole has one thing in common: we are all floating on a rock, hurtling through space at a speed of over a million miles per hour.
We can now observe a lot more of the universe than we ever thought possible because of the quick advancement of technology over the past century. It is impossible to truly understand everything because of the universe’s size and scope, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
A cosmic wonder unlike anything astronomers have ever seen has been discovered by the James Webb Space Telescope, and this time it is located right in our own solar system. The 6,000-mile water vapor plume that Saturn’s moon Enceladus was emitting was discovered by the $10 billion telescope. According to NASA, Enceladus has a diameter of 313 miles and is Saturn’s sixth largest moon. It has become a popular target for scientists looking for life elsewhere in the universe because it is mostly covered by ice.
Between its crust and core, Enceladus has a saltwater “hidden ocean.” Volcanoes on the moon’s surface spew ice and water vapor plumes into space through ‘tiger striped’ surface cracks that contain the elements necessary for life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen). Astronomers were astounded by the newly discovered jet of water’s enormous size.
After receiving the fresh information, lead author Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center had trouble believing what he was seeing. “When I first started analyzing the data, I assumed I had to be mistaken. Finding a water plume that was larger than 20 times the size of the moon was simply shocking, he said. The southern pole’s release region for the water plume is far away. Not all of the new data’s unexpected characteristics are related to the water plume’s size. The rate of water ejection from the planet, which is 79 gallons per second, also captivates scientists.
Previous observations from the Cassini orbiter gave astronomers groundbreaking data about Enceladus in the eary
2000s. Cassini’s findings revealed the moon’s hidden ocean, confirmed that Enceladus is in fact an active moon with volcanoes, solved the mystery of why the moon is the brightest world in our solar system, a
nd ultimately changed planetary science
However, Webb’s observations are even more striking. Because Webb is one million miles from Earth and has extremely sensitive scientific equipment, it can observe celestial objects in much greater detail. Astronomers were also able to investigate how the icy moon’s water emissions affect Saturn’s ring system thanks to the new Webb discovery.
Enceladus orbits Saturn in just 33 hours, which is a fairly quick orbit. According to Villanueva, the moon and its jets are essentially spitting off water as they whip around Saturn, leaving a halo that resembles a donut in their wakey whip around Saturn, leaving a halo that resembles a donut in their wake. Not only was the plume enormous in the Webb observations, but water was also present everywhere. The James Webb Space Telescope will continue to observe Enceladus in the future in an effort to learn more about the icy ocean world and investigate its potential to harbor life.