Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Cassini Gradually Revealing Phoebe's Origin

Images like this one, showing bright 'wispy' streaks thought to be ice revealed by subsidence of crater walls, are leading to the view that Phoebe is an icy-rich body overlain with a thin layer of dark material. Obvious downslope motion of material occurring along the walls of the major craters in this image is the cause for the bright streaks, which are over-exposed here. Significant slumping has occurred along the crater wall at top left. The slumping of material might have been caused by a small projectile punching into the steep slope of the wall of a pre-existing larger crater. Another possibility is that the material collapsed when triggered by another impact elsewhere on Phoebe. Note that the bright, exposed areas of ice are not very uniform along the wall. Small craters are exposing bright material on the 'hummocky' floor of the larger crater. Elsewhere on this image, there are local areas of outcropping along the larger crater wall where denser, more resistant material is located. Whether these outcrops are large blocks being exhumed by landslides or actual 'bedrock' is not currently understood. The crater on the left, with most of the bright streamers, is about 45 kilometres in diameter, front to back as viewed. The larger depression in which the crater sits is on the order of 100 kilometres across. The slopes from the rim down to the 'hummocky' floor are approximately 20 kilometres long; many of the bright streamers on the crater wall are on the order of 10 kilometres long. A future project for Cassini image scientists will be to work out the chronology of slumping events in this scene. This image was obtained with an angle of 78 degrees between the Sun, Phoebe and the spacecraft, from a distance of 11 918 kilometres. The image scale is approximately 70 metres per pixel. No enhancement was performed on this image. Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Pasadena CA (JPL) May 30, 2005
Data from the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission are providing convincing evidence that Saturn's moon Phoebe was formed elsewhere in the Solar System, and was only later caught by the planet's gravitational pull.

One way to unlock Phoebe's secrets is using Cassini's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), developed by a team of US (JPL), French and Italian (ASI) scientists and engineers. The science team is made by a large international group of US, Italian, French and German scientists led by the University of Arizona.

This instrument identifies the chemical compositions of the surfaces, atmospheres and rings of Saturn and its moons by measuring colours of visible light and infrared energy emitted or reflected (spectra).

The origin of Phoebe, which is the outermost large satellite of Saturn, is of particular interest because its orbit is in the opposite direction (retrograde) and inclined at a different angle to Saturn's regular satellites (with 'prograde', low-inclination circular orbits).

Phoebe's generally dark surface shows evidence of water ice, but otherwise the surface most closely resembles that of asteroids and small outer Solar System bodies such as Chiron and Pholus that are thought to have originated in the Kuiper belt.

Recent results from VIMS suggest that Phoebe was gravitationally 'captured' by Saturn, having formed from ice and rocks 'accreting', or joining together, outside the region of the 'solar nebula' gas and dust in which Saturn formed.

The other moons probably accreted within the nebula in which Saturn itself formed. VIMS made its observations during the close fly-by of Phoebe by Cassini-Huygens on 11 June 2004.

The composition of Phoebe should reflect the composition of the region of the solar nebula where it formed. If it originated in the region of the main asteroid belt, it should consist largely of 'mafic' minerals, which are silicate rocks and magmas with relatively high amounts of heavier elements.

However, the presence of highly volatile substances (i.e. lots of water and carbon dioxide ice or other carbon-based compounds) does not support strongly this hypothesis. Alternatively then, it could have formed where the Kuiper belt objects originated in the 'volatile-rich' outer solar nebula.

Spectra of Phoebe display a wealth of information, indicating a surface containing distinct locations iron-bearing minerals, bound water, trapped carbon dioxide, silicates, organics, nitriles and cyanide compounds.

Phoebe is one of the most compositionally diverse objects yet observed in our Solar System. The only body imaged to date that is more diverse is Earth!

Mapping results from VIMS show that water ice is distributed over most of Phoebe's observed surface, but generally shows stronger spectral signatures toward the southern polar region.

However, this water ice may only be a surface coating because some crater interiors show less ice deep in the crater and more near the surface.

By contrast with the moons around Jupiter, cratering tends to expose fresh ice in the subsurface. This raises the possibility that Phoebe is coated by material of cometary or outer Solar System origin, or that it is formed there.

Without information about its deep internal composition, we cannot conclusively say that Phoebe originated in the outer Solar System, but compositional data for the full Saturn system may help to narrow it down.

The same broad traces of iron on Phoebe are seen in Saturn's rings, particularly in the Cassini division and the C-ring, and may imply that some materials are common to both Phoebe's surface and the rings.

Angioletta Coradini, of the Instituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario, CNR, Rome, said: "Phoebe's organic and cyanide compositions are unlike any surface yet observed in the inner Solar System, but organics and cyanides have still not yet been definitively detected by the VIMS in any of Saturn rings to date. This may mean that the materials on Phoebe and the rings have different origins.

The detection of compounds with a similar absorption characteristics in their spectra on both Phoebe and Iapetus may indicate that material from Phoebe has struck Iapetus's leading hemisphere. They may have collided or perhaps cometary material has coated both Phoebe and Iapetus.

Regardless of its origin, Phoebe's diverse mix of materials is unique among Solar System surfaces observed to date, and the chances are very high that it probably does display primitive materials from the outer Solar System.

Related Links
Cassini-Huygens at JPL
Cassini Imaging Team
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Titan's Face Lifted
Moffett Field CA (SPX) May 26, 2005
Thanks to a thick veil of orange smog, the surface of Titan has always been bathed in hazy uncertainty. Our view of Titan sharpened with the arrival of the Cassini spacecraft, which has been performing a slow dance through Saturn's system since June of 2004.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.