Cassini ion and neutral mass spectrometer: Enceladus plume composition and structure

J. Hunter Waite, Michael R. Combi, Wing Huen Ip, Thomas E. Cravens, Ralph L. McNutt, Wayne Kasprzak, Roger Yelle, Janet Luhmann, Hasso Niemann, David Gell, Brian Magee, Greg Fletcher, Jonathan Lunine, Wei Ling Tseng

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414 Scopus citations


The Cassini spacecraft passed within 168.2 kilometers of the surface above the southern hemisphere at 19:55:22 universal time coordinated on 14 July 2005 during its closest approach to Enceladus. Before and after this time, a substantial atmospheric plume and coma were observed, detectable in the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) data set out to a distance of over 4000 kilometers from Enceladus. INMS data indicate that the atmospheric plume and coma are dominated by water, with significant amounts of carbon dioxide, an unidentified species with a mass-to-charge ratio of 28 daltons (either carbon monoxide or molecular nitrogen), and methane. Trace quantities (<1%) of acetylene and propane also appear to be present. Ammonia is present at a level that does not exceed 0.5%. The radial and angular distributions of the gas density near the closest approach, as well as other independent evidence, suggest a significant contribution to the plume from a source centered near the south polar cap, as distinct from a separately measured more uniform and possibly global source observed on the outbound leg of the flyby.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1419-1422
Number of pages4
Issue number5766
StatePublished - Mar 10 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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