The Fountains of Enceladus

  • Released Thursday, December 4th, 2014
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:50PM
View full credits

Enceladus, a tiny moon orbiting Saturn, is one of the solar system's most active objects. More than 100 distinct jets of water burst through four massive cracks near the moon's south pole. The water simultaneously freezes and boils when it hits the cold vacuum of space. Hundreds of miles above, the jets merge into a single plume of ice particles. Larger particles fall back, while smaller, faster ones escape to form Saturn’s gossamer E ring. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has snapped hundreds of images of the geysers during several close flybys of Enceladus. Researchers believe gravitational force from Saturn alternately compresses and stretches the moon in its oblong orbit. Models predict this same tidal energy warms a sea of liquid water beneath the ice, providing a source for the geysers and a potential abode for extraterrestrial life. Watch the video to see close-ups of the moon and its icy plumes taken by Cassini.

Geysers of ice jet deep into space from Enceladus, one of Saturn's most intriguing moons.

Geysers of ice jet deep into space from Enceladus, one of Saturn's most intriguing moons.

The geysers erupt from four giant cracks on the surface nicknamed the “tiger stripes.”

The geysers erupt from four giant cracks on the surface nicknamed the “tiger stripes.”

The Damascus Sulcus, one of the four “tiger stripes,” is a craggy furrow three miles across and up to 820 feet deep.

The Damascus Sulcus, one of the four “tiger stripes,” is a craggy furrow three miles across and up to 820 feet deep.

While most of Saturn's rings are composed of solid chunks of ice, the E ring (shown above) is made up of a cloud of particles shed from Enceladus.

While most of Saturn's rings are composed of solid chunks of ice, the E ring (shown above) is made up of a cloud of particles shed from Enceladus.


App

Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video and images courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Damascus Sulcus image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute/USRA/LPI/P. Schenk