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Total particulate mass in Enceladus plumes and mass of Saturn’s E ring inferred from Cassini ISS images

Ingersoll, Andrew P. and Ewald, Shawn P. (2011) Total particulate mass in Enceladus plumes and mass of Saturn’s E ring inferred from Cassini ISS images. Icarus, 216 (2). pp. 492-506. ISSN 0019-1035.

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The eclipse mosaic (PIA08329) of the Saturn system, taken on September 15, 2006 when Cassini was in Saturn’s shadow, contains numerous color images of the Enceladus plume and the E ring at phase angles ranging from 173° to 179°. These forward-scattering observations sample the diffraction peak for particle radii in the 1–5 μm range. The phase angle dependence and total brightness are sensitive indicators of the total mass of solid material in the plume. We fit the data with a variety of particle shapes and size distributions, and find that the median radius of the equivalent-volume sphere is 3.1 μm, with an uncertainty of ±0.5 μm. The total mass of particles in the plume is (1.45 ± 0.5) × 10^5 kg. We have not considered variations with altitude in the particle size and shape distribution, and we leave that for another paper. We find that the brightness of the E ring varies with position in the orbit, not only because of the viewing geometry, e.g., variations in phase angle, but also because of some unknown intrinsic variability. The total mass of solid material in the E ring is (12 ± 5.5) × 10^8 kg. For the plume, the production rate of particles – the mass per unit time leaving the vents is 51 ± 18 kg s^(−1). We estimate that 9% of these particles are escaping from Enceladus, implying lifetimes of ∼8 years for the E ring particles. Based on three comparisons with vapor amounts from ultraviolet spectroscopy, the ice/vapor ratio is in the range 0.35–0.70. This high ratio poses a problem for theories in which particles form by condensation from the gas phase, and could indicate that particles are formed as spray from a liquid reservoir.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Ingersoll, Andrew P.0000-0002-2035-9198
Ewald, Shawn P.0000-0002-1567-9154
Additional Information:© 2011 Elsevier Inc. Received 2 September 2009; revised 9 September 2011; Accepted 14 September 2011. Available online 28 September 2011. This research was supported with funds from the Cassini Project and the National Science Foundation (AST-0808148).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Cassini ProjectUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Enceladus; Saturn, Satellites; Saturn, Rings; Ices
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120106-085830318
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Official Citation:Andrew P. Ingersoll, Shawn P. Ewald, Total particulate mass in Enceladus plumes and mass of Saturn’s E ring inferred from Cassini ISS images, Icarus, Volume 216, Issue 2, December 2011, Pages 492-506, ISSN 0019-1035, 10.1016/j.icarus.2011.09.018. (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:28691
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:06 Jan 2012 17:26
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

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