Cassini Detects Hint of Fresh Air at Dione
March 02, 2012NASA's Cassini spacecraft has "sniffed" molecular oxygen ions around Saturn's icy moon Dione for the first time, confirming the presence of a very tenuous atmosphere. The oxygen ions are quite sparse - one for every 0.67 cubic inches of space (one for every 11 cubic centimeters of space) or about 2,550 per cubic foot (90,000 per cubic meter) - show that Dione has an extremely thin neutral atmosphere.
At the Dione surface, this atmosphere would only be as dense as Earth's atmosphere 300 miles (480 kilometers) above the surface. The detection of this faint atmosphere, known as an exosphere, is described in a recent issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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