Philippines Map NASA



This important measurement was made using Cassini's INMS instrument, which detects gases with the goal of determining their composition. INMS was designed to sample the upper atmosphere of Saturn's large, smoggy moon Titan. However, after Cassini's surprising discovery of a tall plume if icy spray erupting from cracks on Enceladus in 2005, planetary scientists turned its detectors to that small moon. A Distant, Dusty Moon. Titan experiences changing seasons--just like Earth. In particular, Titan's seasons change around the equinox, when our Sun passes Titan's equator. At this time, huge clouds can form in tropical areas, resulting in violent methane storms. Cassini observed these ferocious methane storms during several of its flybys over Titan. Using computer models, the team of scientists came up with a complex interior structure for Ganymede, composed of an ocean sandwiched between up to three layers of ice--in addition to the very important rocky seafloor. The lightest ice, of course, would be on top, and the saltiest liquid would be heavy enough to sink to the bottom. Furthermore, the results suggest the existence of a truly weird phenomenon that would cause the oceans to "snow" upwards! This bizarre "snow" might develop because, as the oceans swirl and churn, and frigid plumes wind and whirl around, ice in the uppermost ocean layer, called Ice III, may form in the seawater. When ice forms, salts precipitate out. The heavier salts would then tumble down, and the lighter ice, or "snow," would flutter upward. The "snow" would them melt again before reaching the top of the ocean--and this would possibly leave slush lurking in the middle of the moon's odd sandwich!