November 26, 2010
A spacecraft has tasted oxygen in the atmosphere of another world for the first time while flying low over Saturn’s icy moon, Rhea.
Nasa’s Cassini probe scooped oxygen from the thin atmosphere of the planet’s moon while passing overhead at an altitude of 97km in March this year.
Until now, wisps of oxygen have only been detected on planets and their moons indirectly, using the Hubble space telescope and other major facilities.
Instruments aboard Cassini revealed an extremely thin oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere that is sustained by high-energy particles slamming into the moon’s surface and kicking up atoms, molecules and ions.
This article was posted: Friday, November 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm