Saturn’s Mysterious Moons PREVIEW
This video previews an expanded-updated 1080p version of our popular Cosmic Journeys episode. Some 900 million miles from the Sun, orbiting the planet Saturn, lies a mysterious world. Enceladus is enveloped in ice. Because nearly all of the sunlight that manages to hit its surface is reflected back into space, it’s one of the brightest objects in the solar system.
At its equator, the temperature is –315 degrees Fahrenheit. But, at the poles, the temperature is at least 15 degrees warmer… and as much as 65 degrees warmer in grooves that stretch across the south like tiger stripes.
In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft spotted a complex plume of water vapor shooting out into space from several locations near the south pole. That may mean that Enceladus harbors a remarkable secret below its frigid surface:
A liquid ocean… and maybe… some forms of life. This discovery was the culmination of a search that began over three decades ago. Back in 1979, the outer planets of the solar system lined up in such a way that mission planners were able to dispatch the Voyager spacecraft to fly past each of them.
The two Voyagers sent back tens of thousands of images… of planetary realms more diverse than anyone had imagined. These long-distance marathon flyers – both now headed out towards interstellar space – made discoveries about the planetary chemistry that make these gas giants appear to us as gigantic works of abstract art.
The Voyagers disclosed new details about their magnetic fields, atmospheres, ring systems, and even the nature of their inner cores. Voyager turned up some surprising new mysteries too: a huge dark spot — a storm in fact – on Neptune. They found that Uranus is tipped 90 degrees to one side. That Saturn is less dense than water; if you had a bathtub big enough, Saturn would float!
And that you’d need the mass of three Saturns to make just one Jupiter! But what really knocked the scientists’ socks off were the moons that orbit these gas giants.