Artist's impression of the Cassini spacecraft flying through plumes from the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. These columns look a lot like geysers, spewing out a combination of water vapor, ice grains, salts, methane and other organic molecules. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The interaction between the moon's plumes and Saturn's ring system was explored with Webb
Enceladus, a small, icy moon of hisSaturn— is one of the most interesting objects in the search for signs of life beyond our planet.
Beneath an ice crust lies a global saltwater ocean. Jets, supplied by this ocean, erupt from the surface of the moon and power the entire Saturn system.NASA'smallJames Webb Space TelescopeThe long-awaited first look at this oceanic world is already revealing surprising new details about the moon, including a jet plume of water vapor more than 20 times the size of the moon.
A NIRSpec (near infrared spectrometer) image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope shows a plume of water vapor erupting from the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus, stretching more than 20 times the size of the moon. The inset, a Cassini orbiter image, highlights how small Enceladus appears in the Webb image compared to the water column. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Geronimo Villanueva (NASA-GSFC), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
Webb Space Telescope maps surprisingly large plume coming from Saturn's moon Enceladus
A plume of water vapor from Saturn's moon Enceladus that stretches more than 6,000 miles -- nearly the distance between Los Angeles, California, and Buenos Aires, Argentina -- was detected by researchers using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Not only is it the first time such water emission has been observed at such a great distance, but Webb is also giving scientists a direct look, for the first time, at how this emission powers the water supply for the entire Saturn and ring system.
An ocean world about 4% the size of Earth, with a diameter of just 313 miles, Enceladus is one of our solar system's most exciting science targets in the search for life beyond Earth. Between the moon's icy outer crust and its rocky core lies a global reservoir of salty water. The geyser-like volcanoes spew streams of ice particles, water vapor, and organic chemicals from cracks in the moon's surface informally called "tiger stripes."
In the past, observatories hadaircraft mapped hundreds of milesfrom the lunar surface, but Webb's extraordinary sensitivity reveals a new story.
Researchers using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope recently discovered a plume extending from the moon's south pole more than 20 times the size of the moon. This animation shows how the moon's water columns feed the planet's torus. Analyzing Webb's data, astronomers have determined that about 30 percent of the water remains in this torus, with the other 70 percent escaping to feed water to the rest of the Saturn system. Credits: Leah Hustak (STScI), NASA, ESA, CSA, Geronimo Villanueva, Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
“When I looked at the data, at first, I thought I must be wrong. It was so shocking to detect a water column more than 20 times the size of the moon,” said lead author Geronimo Villanueva of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The water column extends far beyond its release area at the South Pole."
Wing length was not the only feature that piqued the researchers' interest. The speed at which the water vapor gushes out, about 79 gallons per second, is also particularly impressive. At that rate, you could fill an Olympic-sized pool in just a few hours. By comparison, doing it with a garden hose on Earth would take over 2 weeks.
HemessThe orbiter spent more than a decade exploring the Saturn system and not only imaged Enceladus' plumes for the first time, but flew directly through them and took samples of what they were made of. While Cassini's position within the Saturn system provided invaluable information about this distant moon, Webb's unique Sun-Earth viewLagrange point 2a million miles from Earth, combined with the remarkable sensitivity of the Integrated Field Unit (see video below) on the NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrograph) instrument, offers new context.
The James Webb Space Telescope will use an innovative instrument called the Integral Field Unit (IFU) to capture images and spectra simultaneously. This video provides a basic overview of how the IFU works. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA and L. Hustak (STScI)
“Enceladus' orbit around Saturn is relatively fast, just 33 hours. As it orbits Saturn, the moon and its jets are basically spitting water, leaving an almost donut-like halo in its wake,” Villanueva said. "In Webb's observations, not only was the plume huge, but there was water absolutely everywhere."
This fuzzy donut of water that appeared 'everywhere', described as a ring, sits alongside Saturn's outermost and widest ring: the dense 'E Ring'.
Webb's observations directly demonstrate how clouds of water vapor from the moon feed the torus. Analyzing Webb's data, astronomers have determined that about 30 percent of the water remains in this torus, with the other 70 percent escaping to feed the rest of Saturn's water system.
For years to come, Webb will serve as the primary observation tool for the ocean moon Enceladus, and Webb's discoveries will help inform future solar system satellite missions that will seek to explore the depth of the subsurface ocean, the thickness of the ice crust and further.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's extraordinary sensitivity and highly specialized instruments are revealing details about how one of Saturn's moons supplies water to the ringed planet's entire system. Enceladus, a leading candidate in the search for life elsewhere in our solar system, is a small moon about 4% the size of Earth. New images from Webb's NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrograph) have revealed a plume of water vapor erupting from Enceladus' south pole that stretches more than 20 times the size of the moon. The Integrated Field Unit (IFU) in NIRSpec also provided information on how Enceladus' water is fed into the rest of the environment.
Enceladus orbits Saturn in just 33 hours, and as it does so, it sprays water and leaves a torus, or "doughnut," of material in its wake. This bull is depicted in the above chart in light blue.
The Webb IFU is a combination camera and spectrograph. During an IFU observation, the instrument captures an image of the field of view along with individual spectra of each pixel in the field of view. IFU observations allow astronomers to investigate how properties (composition in this case) vary from place to place in a region of space.
The unique sensitivity of the Webb IFUs allowed the researchers to detect many streaks of water coming from the torus around Enceladus and the plume itself. This simultaneous collection of spectra from the plume and ring allowed the researchers to better understand their intimate relationship. In this spectrum, the white lines are the Webb data, and the best water emission models are overlaid in different colors: purple for the plume, green for the central region of the moon, and red for the surrounding torus. .
Members: Geronimo Villanueva (NASA-GSFC), NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Leah Hustak (STScI)
"Right now, Webb provides a unique way to directly measure how water evolves and changes over time in Enceladus' massive plume, and as we see here, we'll even make new discoveries and learn more about the composition of the underlying ocean," he added. co-author Stefanie Milam at NASA Goddard. "Because of Webb's wavelength coverage and sensitivity and what we've learned from previous missions, we have a new window of opportunity in front of us."
Webb's observations of Enceladus were completed as part of the Guaranteed Time Observing (GTO) 1250 program. The original goal of this program is to demonstrate Webb's capabilities in a specific area of science and lay the foundation for future study.
"This program was essentially a proof of concept after many years of developing the observatory, and it's exciting that all this science has already come out of a fairly short observation time," said Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Webb . Interdisciplinary Scientist and GTO Program Manager.
The team's results have recently been accepted for publication atastronomy of naturethe 17th of May
Published by G. L. Villanueva, H. B. Hammel, S. N. Milam, V. Kofman, S. Faggi, C.R.
Glein, R. Cartwright, L. Roth, K. P. Hand, L. Paganini, J. Spencer, J. Stansberry, B. Holler, N. Rowe-Gurney, S. Protopapa, G. Strazzulla, G. Liuzzi, G. Cruz -Mermy, M. El Moutamid, M. Hedman and K. Denny,astronomy of nature.
As the world's leading space science observatory, theJames Webb Space TelescopeYou will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond distant worlds around other stars, and explore the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program run byNASAwith their partners,ESA(European Space Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
Webb Maps Surprisingly Large Plume Jetting From Saturn's Moon Enceladus. A water vapor plume from Saturn's moon Enceladus spanning more than 6,000 miles – nearly the distance from Los Angeles, California to Buenos Aires, Argentina – has been detected by researchers using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.Does NASA's James Webb telescope detect water on distant planet? ›
James Webb Telescope will help in discovery of water on distant planet. This telescope will help the researchers in measuring the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets across other stars.How far can the James Webb telescope see? ›
How far back will Webb see? Webb is able to see what the universe looked like around a quarter of a billion years (possibly back to 100 million years) after the Big Bang, when the first stars and galaxies started to form.What does the telescope mission of Cassini reveal about the moon Enceladus? ›
Cassini revealed the dramatic truth: Enceladus is an active moon that hides a global ocean of liquid salty water beneath its crust. What's more, jets of icy particles from that ocean, laced with a brew of water and simple organic chemicals, gush out into space continuously from this fascinating ocean world.Can you see Enceladus with a telescope? ›
There are 6 moons that are big and bright enough to see through an amateur telescope: Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, Enceladus, and Mimas.Can James Webb Telescope detect water? ›
The Space Telescope Science Institute announced this week that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has detected water vapor near a rocky exoplanet that is highly unlikely to have an atmosphere. It's a startling discovery that raises more questions than it can answer.Did the James Webb Space Telescope detect water? ›
Peering at a rocky planet 26 light-years away, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has spied signs of water vapor. The discovery would mark the first time that astronomers have ever managed to discern an atmosphere on a rocky planet outside our own solar system.How far can the James Webb telescope see in light years? ›
Webb has the capacity to look 13.6 billion light years distant—which will be the farthest we've ever seen into space. This image of the galactic cluster known as SMACS 0723 contains thousands of galaxies, some of which are as far away as 13.1 billion light years. (A single light year is just under 6 trillion miles.)How far back in time can Webb see? ›
This is because of the time it takes light to travel from the object to us. With JWST's larger mirror, it will be able to see almost the whole way back to the beginning of the Universe, around 13.7 billion years ago.What did the James Webb telescope discover so far? ›
Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope to peer back in time to the early days of the universe — and they spotted something unexpected. The space observatory revealed six massive galaxies that existed between 500 million and 700 million years after the big bang that created the universe.
Webb's critics say he was complicit in the firing of gay and lesbian employees during the “lavender scare” that began in the late 1940s and continued through the '60s. NASA investigated those claims in 2021 and 2022 and found no evidence Webb was involved.Can you breathe on Enceladus? ›
There is no available oxygen to work with, and a tremendous amount of pressure to contend with if an organism hopes to derive energy from the chemical reaction between Enceladus' subsurface ocean and its rocky core.Could there be life on Enceladus? ›
Enceladus now appears to meet all of the criteria for a habitable ocean.” Many researchers consider Enceladus to be among the most likely places to house extraterrestrial life.What is unknown about Enceladus? ›
In fact, Enceladus is the most reflective body in the solar system. For decades, scientists didn't know why. Because Enceladus reflects so much sunlight, the surface temperature is extremely cold, about minus 330 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 201 degrees Celsius). But it is not as cold and inactive a place as it appears.Is there radiation on Enceladus? ›
Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) that strike both Enceladus' surface and the lofted icy particles produce ionizing radiation in the form of high-energy electrons, protons, gamma rays, neutrons and muons.What is unusual about Enceladus? ›
As Saturn's brightest, whitest satellite, Enceladus has the most reflective surface in the Solar System. Previous Cassini fly-bys revealed that, in contrast to Saturn's other icy moons, Enceladus has lightly cratered regions, fractured plains and 'wrinkled' terrain.What planet has water with the Webb telescope? ›
The James Webb Space Telescope took its first close look at a "mini-Neptune" — the most common type of planet beyond our solar system — and found signs of water. Astronomers have finally peered past the clouds on the exoplanet GJ 1214b, a mini-Neptune planet around a star about 40 light-years away.Can the Webb telescope see black holes? ›
The earliest known black hole in the universe has been spotted by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and it could tell us about the origin of supermassive black holes that formed much later.Can James Webb look at our solar system? ›
Webb will observe Mars and the giant planets, minor planets like Pluto and Eris - and even the small bodies in our solar system: asteroids, comets, and Kuiper Belt Objects.Can the James Webb telescope see asteroids? ›
James Webb Telescope Reveals Asteroid Belts Around Nearby Young Star. The James Webb Space Telescope has imaged the first asteroid belt found outside our solar system—and discovered it may hold evidence of hidden planets.
Webb won't be looking at Earth, but it will observe more distant planets in the Solar System as well as exoplanets orbiting other stars. Some of these exoplanets may be very similar to Earth.Can Webb look at Mars? ›
Scientists designed the James Webb Space Telescope to be able to detect faint light from distant parts of the universe. But with a few careful adjustments, the high-tech telescope was recently able to turn its attention toward a much closer and brighter object in the night sky: Mars.Can we see dinosaurs with James Webb telescope? ›
If any life far from thousands of light years see the earth from a super advanced telescope they don't see us, they see dinosaurs on earth, because they see the light of that period. The same concept applies to the James Webb Space telescope, we will see past through this telescope.What is the farthest picture of Earth? ›
Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles, 40.5 AU), as part of that day's Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System.How many light years can Hubble see? ›
How far can Hubble see? The farthest observation that Hubble has made to date is of the galaxy GN-z11, which is located about 13.4 billion light-years away.Can we see Earth in the past? ›
The past no longer exists, so no one can directly look at it. Instead, the telescopes are looking at the present-time pattern of a beam of light. Since the beam of light has been traveling through the mostly-empty vacuum of space for millions of years, it has been largely undisturbed.Can the James Webb telescope see the flag on the moon? ›
No, it is not possible for a telescope to see the flags on the Moon. The flags are only 121 centimeters (4 ft) long and the average home telescope can only see objects larger than 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mi). Even the Hubble or the James Webb aren't big enough to reach that level of magnification.How can we see light from 13 billion years ago? ›
We know that light takes time to travel, so that if we observe an object that is 13 billion light years away, then that light has been traveling towards us for 13 billion years. Essentially, we are seeing that object as it appeared 13 billion years ago.What massive object did James Webb detect? ›
James Webb telescope detects evidence of ancient 'universe breaker' galaxies. The James Webb space telescope has detected what appear to be six massive ancient galaxies, which astronomers are calling “universe breakers” because their existence could upend current theories of cosmology.Did the James Webb telescope find the oldest galaxy? ›
Over 10 days of observation, the team of astronomers used the Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to scan the deep-field region and soon spotted four galaxies whose red-shift indicated they ranged in age from 320 million to 350 million years after the Big Bang, making them the oldest galaxies ever detected.
It is estimated that there are roughly 200 billion galaxies (2×1011) in the observable universe. Most galaxies are 1,000 to 100,000 parsecs in diameter (approximately 3,000 to 300,000 light years) and are separated by distances on the order of millions of parsecs (or megaparsecs).What are the negatives of the James Webb telescope? ›
One disadvantage of this orbit is that, since it's a full 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) from Earth — three times the distance from the Earth to the moon — JWST is too distant for repairs like the ones that Hubble experienced.Why is Webb such a big deal? ›
We will measure how the elements responsible for life: oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, formed and evolved across 13 billion years of cosmic time. James Webb will also reveal what elements are in the atmospheres around extrasolar planets.What is the real purpose of James Webb? ›
The James Webb Space Telescope is an infrared observatory orbiting the Sun about 1 million miles from Earth to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and to see stars forming planetary systems.Is the water on Enceladus drinkable? ›
The best places to look for life are where the ocean overlies warm rock. This may be the case inside Europa (Jupiter) and Enceladus (Saturn), but chemical reactions with the rock would make the liquid water salty, so not good to drink.Can you live on Saturn's rings? ›
Saturn's environment is not conducive to life as we know it. The temperatures, pressures, and materials that characterize this planet are most likely too extreme and volatile for organisms to adapt to.Can we live in Saturn's moon? ›
Saturn's moon Enceladus could be habitable, according to a study published last Monday. In the search for extraterrestrial life, a group of scientists discovered new evidence that the subsurface water ocean of Enceladus contains the building blocks of life.How long would it take to travel from Earth to Enceladus? ›
A mission to Enceladus would require roughly 11 years to travel from Earth to its home in orbit around the moon — so what are we waiting for?What does Enceladus smell like? ›
They are mainly made of water-ice and rock which is mostly odourless…. Enceladus plumes are composed of volatile gases, water vapour, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide – all odourless….How deep is the ocean on Enceladus? ›
The ocean is about 25 miles/40km deep—according to NASA's Cassini probe—which is vastly deeper than Earth's ocean. “The pressure and temperature differences between the Enceladus ocean floor and the ice cap above must be tremendous,” writes astrobiologist Dr.
Terraforming is impossible because Enceladus cannot support an atmosphere. Paraterraforming could be possible for limited areas, but on a large scale, quakes will destroy the glasses, while falling ice will cover any surface.Why could Enceladus support life? ›
Enceladus is one of the prime targets in the search for life in the solar system. Observations made by the Cassini spacecraft show that this small moon of Saturn has an ice-covered water ocean that erupts into space, forming a plume that contains almost all of the basic requirements of terrestrial life.What is the future mission to Enceladus? ›
Breakthrough Enceladus is a proposed privately funded astrobiology mission by Breakthrough Initiatives founded by Yuri Milner. Its aim is to assess the possibility of life on Saturn's moon Enceladus. NASA will be “providing expert reviewers and feedback on their design".Can you land on Enceladus? ›
Enceladus has about a hundredth of the gravity on Earth, so landing should be relatively easy compared to Mars. It will then stay on the surface for a couple of years at least, occasionally changing position, to take (likely much larger) samples of that plume material that have fallen back.What kind of life could exist on Enceladus? ›
The data also reflected generous amounts of carbon dioxide and methane (CH4), both of which told us that methane-based life forms or methanogens could exist around hydrothermal vents on Enceladus.Does Enceladus have more water than Earth? ›
He has ranked the worlds by how much liquid water they have. Ranking from least to most, the list includes: Enceladus, Triton, Dione, Pluto, Earth, with Europa, Callisto, Titan and Ganymede have the most liquid water by volume. Jupiter's moon Ganymede has 46%, and Europa has 16% liquid water by volume.Is Enceladus Dead? ›
Clearly, Enceladus was no dead world. It was active. A moon so small and so far from the sun had no business harboring liquid water. Scientists thought that the water cloud above Enceladus might be produced by water evaporating from the fissures via a surface process similar to what happens on a comet.How long is a day on Enceladus? ›
One day on Enceladus is equal to 1.37 Earth days, or one day, 8 hours, and 53 minutes. This is the same amount of time it takes to complete an orbit around Saturn.What would life look like on Enceladus? ›
Scientists say that any life in Enceladus' ocean is likely fairly simple. There is no sunlight and little heat in this deep abyss. But on Earth, many types of organisms live in the deep oceans.What planet has water with the Webb Telescope? ›
The James Webb Space Telescope took its first close look at a "mini-Neptune" — the most common type of planet beyond our solar system — and found signs of water. Astronomers have finally peered past the clouds on the exoplanet GJ 1214b, a mini-Neptune planet around a star about 40 light-years away.
Yes it can, in fact that's one of its main purposes. The idea will be to image very faint, distant galaxies that are so far away the light from them isn't even visible anymore (it's shifted into the infrared part of the spectrum).What does the James Webb telescope allow us to see? ›
The James Webb Space Telescope is an infrared observatory orbiting the Sun about 1 million miles from Earth to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and to see stars forming planetary systems.Which planet has water on it? ›
But Earth is the only known planet (or moon) to have consistent, stable bodies of liquid water on its surface.What new planet has been discovered with water? ›
Synopsis. Exoplanet explorers have discovered new planets, Kepler-138c and d, covered with water.What is the new planet discovered by Webb? ›
Researchers confirmed an exoplanet, a planet that orbits another star, using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope for the first time. Formally classified as LHS 475 b, the planet is almost exactly the same size as our own, clocking in at 99% of Earth's diameter.Which telescope found water on moon? ›
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon.How far can the James Webb telescope see in light-years? ›
Webb has the capacity to look 13.6 billion light years distant—which will be the farthest we've ever seen into space. This image of the galactic cluster known as SMACS 0723 contains thousands of galaxies, some of which are as far away as 13.1 billion light years. (A single light year is just under 6 trillion miles.)How far back in time can the James Webb telescope see? ›
Webb is a powerful time machine with infrared vision that is peering back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.Where is the great attractor? ›
The location of the Great Attractor was finally determined in 1986: It is situated at a distance of somewhere between 150 and 250 Mly (million light-years) (47–79 Mpc) (the larger being the most recent estimate) away from the Milky Way, in the direction of the constellations Triangulum Australe (The Southern Triangle) ...How much gold is on the James Webb Telescope? ›
Although the Webb mirrors are rather large (the primary mirror has a total diameter of approximately 6.5 m), the thin gold layer weighs in at a mere 48.25 g.
The earliest-known galaxy ever found was recently uncovered and confirmed by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. But astrophysicist Brant Robertson, who helped make the discovery as part of the JADES team, said that he doesn't expect the current record will hold for long.How far can James Webb see compared to Hubble? ›
With a mirror almost three times wider, JWST will be able to see objects almost nine times fainter than Hubble, allowing us to peer even further into space.Which planet has life other than Earth? ›
Among the stunning variety of worlds in our solar system, only Earth is known to host life.Which planet has life like Earth? ›
Kepler-452b has been in Kepler-452's habitable zone for most of its existence, a duration just over six billion years. From the surface of Kepler-452b, its star would look almost identical to the Sun as viewed from the Earth.Is there another planet like Earth? ›
Scientists at NASA have recently announced that they found a planet that is almost identical (about 95%) to Earth's size and shape and has a rocky surface. Named TOI 700 e, this new planet orbits within its star's habitable zone, which also hints at the presence of water on its surface.