Saturday, May 30, 2015

What is the Density of Enceladus' Plumes?

Cassini INMS measurements of Enceladus plume density


Perry et al


During six encounters between 2008 and 2013, the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) made in situ measurements deep within the Enceladus plumes. Throughout each encounter, those measurements contained density variations that reflected the nature of the source, particularly of the high-velocity jets. Since the dominant constituent of the vapor, H2O, interacted with the walls of the INMS inlet, we track changes in the external vapor density by using more-volatile species that responded promptly to those changes. However, the most-abundant volatiles, at 28 u and 44 u, behaved differently from each other in the plume. At least a portion of their differences may be attributed to mass-dependent thermal velocity that affects Mach number in the high-velocity jets. Variations between volatiles place an emphasis on modeling as a means to construct overall plume density from the volatile densities and to investigate the velocity, gas temperature, and location of the jets. Ice grains, entering the INMS aperture add complexity and uncertainty to the physical interpretation of the data because the grains modified the INMS measurements. A comparison of data from the last three encounters, E14, E17, and E18, are consistent with the VIMS observation of variability in jet production and a slower, more diffuse gas flux from the four sulci or tiger stripes. We provide and describe the INMS data, its processing, and its uncertainty.

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