NANTES, FRANCE—For an extraterrestrial skiing experience, Enceladus is the place to go. Parts of this small, icy Saturnian moon are covered with a thick layer of
extremely powdery snow, according to a presentation here today at a joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for
Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Consisting of particles just a few micrometers in size (creating the halo in this artist's
impression), the snow has been accumulating over millions or even tens of millions of years. Last year, scientists predicted that some of the material
spewed out into space by the icy geysers at Enceladus's
south pole would slowly fall down to certain areas on the surface. Detailed measurements by NASA's planetary probe Cassini, presented at the meeting,
have now revealed the predicted snow fields, which measure up to 100 meters thick. They betray their presence by their conspicuous bluish color and by
softening the outlines of buried craters and canyons (inset). But prospective skiers should take care not to launch themselves into space: the gravity
on tiny Enceladus is just 1% that of Earth.
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