back to article Space scope spies soggy, stupendous Saturnian doughnut

The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory has discovered just where the water in Saturn's upper atmosphere comes from: a giant aqueous doughnut surrounding the planet, formed by H2O hosing from the moon Enceladus. Water jets erupting from Enceladus. Pic: NASA NASA's Cassini spacecraft previously spied the water …


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  1. Csharpened

    Thats no moon...

    That is clearly just the death star depositing its human waste. Wouldn't want to fly through that cloud without windscreen wipers!

  2. lIsRT

    That's no moon!

    These look like some sort of RCS, using water as the reaction mass...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Saturn radii...

    How many Brontosauruses is that?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Saturn radii...

      433,886 and a short nose.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Title required

    Saturnian moon's billion year wet fart leaves damp ring on planet.

    If only I could have worked in Uranus somehow.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      sounds like a buggery job

      getting my coat

  5. Giddy Kipper

    Incontinent moon squirts wetly onto ringed giant

    If only that had been 'Incontinent moon squirts wetly onto giant ring', I might have then lost not only my keyboard but my mouse too.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Dumb questions...

    ok, it's a Tuesday, and I've still got the IQ level running in safe mode but...

    - when will the water run out?

    - will it crumple like a soggy balloon when it does?

    - won't it drop out of orbit as it gets lighter?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      This is a title

      Per Wikipedia, Enceladus mass is 1.0*10e20kg, and the main article says it is expelling 250kg of water vapour per second, so assuming a constant rate of loss (which likely isn't correct, but...) it should run out of mass in 4.0*10e17 seconds, which works out to be a bit more than 12.5 billion years if I have done the maths right.

      I'll leave the other two questions as an exercise for the class...

  7. peyton?

    re bootnote

    Good grief! Certainly makes earth-bound photography seem a bit trivial.

    Cassini: "OK, everyone line up now. Sun, can you squeeze in just a bit... Saturn if you'll turn your rings just a hair towards me -woah that's it! hold it! *snap* Perfect!"

    Certainly makes me realize I've been taking the auto mode on my pentax for granted!

  8. Annihilator

    Shifted question

    "The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory has discovered just where the water in Saturn's upper atmosphere comes from"

    It's just shifted the question to "where does the water on Enceladus come from" :-)

  9. Graham Marsden

    Asimov got there first...

    ... with The Martian Way:

    (Ok, at the time he wrote that, it wasn't known that ring fragments were only a few metres in size instead of a mile or so, but it's not bad for sixty years ago! :-) )

  10. serviceWithASmile

    isnt there

    normally a hosepipe ban around this time of year?

    i wonder who pays the water bill.

    beer because it's fizzy too.

  11. Adrian Esdaile
    Thumb Up

    That's no moon, that's....


  12. bugalugs

    Just the spot

    for an ablative shield manufacturing depot for high speed

    inter-planetary, perhaps even inter-stellar, craft.

  13. jackharbringer


    Enchilada Doughnuts!


  14. Adrian Midgley 1

    A smoke ring

    or gas torus at any rate, as written about by Larry Niven, a long time after Asimov.

    Ansel Adams' comment that much of photography is "knowing where to stand" applies to getting those pictures.

  15. Hollerith 1

    pedantic but right

    Minuscule. It's not 'mini' + 'scule' but 'minus' + 'cule'. There is also a 'majuscule'. It first referred to modes of writing (small letters and big letters). The origin is the word 'minusculus'.

    The error is slowly becoming a 'variant spelling' through sheer ignorance, as is 'free reign' instead of 'free rein'. But they will have to pry my OED from my cold, dead fingers before I yield.

    Just doing my bit to add to the fustian usually generated by threads.

  16. Ryan 7

    Free reaction mass at Saturn?

    No need for the Tsien to land on Europa after all!

  17. Eastander

    Enceladus Aurora?

    Looks to me like an Aurora - odd that the jets only concentrated in one place? Maybe Enceladus has a magnetic field like Earth which also interacts with the solar wind and causes an aurora of charged particles at the poles? Maybe ionised water on Enceladus would interact with this electric field and get accelerated off the planet?

    Does that mean that any ionised water vapour in clouds at the poles on earth would also be shot into space under the right circumstances? Photos like this seem to show lines of something perpendicular to the ground?

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