Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fresh Tiger Stripes on Saturn's Enceladus

Click on image to enlargeCredit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Do underground oceans vent through the tiger stripes on Saturn's moon Enceladus? Long features dubbed tiger stripes are known to be spewing ice from the moon's icy interior into space, creating a cloud of fine ice particles over the moon's South Pole and creating Saturn's mysterious E-ring. Evidence for this has come from the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Pictured above, a high resolution image of Enceladus is shown from a close flyby. The unusual surface features dubbed tiger stripes are visible in false-color blue. Why Enceladus is active remains a mystery, as the neighboring moon Mimas, approximately the same size, appears quite dead. Most recently, an analysis of dust captured by Cassini found evidence for sodium as expected in a deep salty ocean. Conversely however, recent Earth-based observations of ice ejected by Enceladus into Saturn's E-Ring showed no evidence of the expected sodium. Such research is particularly interesting since such an ocean would be a candidate to contain life.


CyberKitten said...

Enceladus is looking *very* interesting ATM.

Edgar said...

The Cassini missions have yet to let me down with respect to discoveries. The launching of the Huygens probe to Titan and the discovery of methane seas was one of the landmarks of astronomy. I love speculating about the prospect of life within our own solar system, as unlikely as it may be.