Ring and plasma: The enigmae of Enceladus

P. K. Haff*, A. Eviatar, G. L. Siscoe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The E ring associated with the Kronian moon Enceladus has a lifetime of only a few thousand years against sputteringly by slow corotating O ions. The existence of the ring implies the necessity for a continuous supply of matter. Possible particle source mechanisms on Enceladus include meteoroidal impact ejection and geysering. Estimates of ejection rates of particulate debris following small meteoroid impact are on the order of 3 × 10-18 g cm-2 sec-1, more than an order of magnitude too small to sustain the ring. A geyser source would need to generate a droplet supply at a rate of approximately 10-16 g cm-2 sec- in order to account for a stable ring. Enceladus and the ring particles also directly supply both plasma and vapor to space via sputtering. The absence of a 60 eV plasma at the Voyager 2 Enceladus L-shell crossing, such as might have been expected from sputtering, cannot be explained by absorption and moderation of plasma ions by ring particles, because the ring is too diffuse. Evidently, the effective sputtering yield in the vicinity of Enceladus is on the order of, or smaller than, 0.4, about an order of magnitude less than the calculated value. Small scale surface roughness may account for some of this discrepancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-438
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1983
Externally publishedYes


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