NASA’s Cassini probe orbited Saturn for 13 years, studying the planet’s atmosphere, its spectacular ring system and its many moons. Combining data from Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, or VIMS, and the probe’s Imaging Science Subsystem, researchers have put together a new global spectral map of Enceladus, a moon with icy jets spewing into space from a sub-surface ocean. The jets originate in the south polar regions from parallel gashes dubbed “tiger stripes.” The spectral maps show the tiger stripes in detail, along with infrared signs of recent resurfacing in the northern hemisphere. It’s not clear if the resurfacing is from jets like those seen in the southern hemisphere or the result of a more gradual movement of ice seeping up from the hidden ocean through cracks in the crust. Click on the image below for an animated gif showing a 3D version of the map.
Researchers have used data collected by the Cassini spacecraft to build a computer simulation of Saturn’s icy ocean moon Enceladus that includes the thickness of the ice crust. At its south poles, huge geysers of water jet into space. These come from the ocean depths and suggest that the ice there must be relatively thin for this to happen.
Saturn’s beautiful rings form a striking feature, cutting across this image of two of the planet’s most intriguing moons: Titan (diameter, 3,200 miles) and Enceladus (313 miles). The rings have been a source of mystery since their discovery in 1610 by Galileo Galilei, but there is not full agreement on how they formed.