Saturn: Search for a missing water source

S. Jurac, M. A. McGrath, R. E. Johnson, J. D. Richardson, V. M. Vasyliunas, A. Eviatar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


The origin of the large hydroxyl radical (OH) cloud near the inner moons of Saturn, indicative of a surprisingly large water-vapor source, has represented a puzzle since its discovery in 1992. A new set of Hubble Space Telescope measurements is used to constrain the OH spatial densities and to pinpoint the source region. Our model indicates that the vast majority of the water vapor (>80%) originates from Enceladus's orbital distance. This may indicate the presence of a dense population of small, as of yet unseen, bodies concentrated near Enceladus; collisions between these fragments are the suggested mechanism for producing the necessary amounts of water vapor. We show that collisions between plasma ions and neutral molecules substantially inflate the OH cloud, and increase the OH loss rate, requiring a water source three times larger than previous estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number015855
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number24
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2002


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