Planets and Moons  ID: 11688

The Fountains of Enceladus

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.

Story Credits

Francis Nimmo (UC Santa Cruz)

Nala Rogers (USRA)

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

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