Mission to Mars Project



Each of the little Space eggs resides within its own ring arc--which is a fragmentary ring of Saturn. One hypothesis states that glittering ice crystals swarming around in the ring arc might be floating down to the surface of Methone, filling in its impact craters or other rough topography. This is something that is thought to have occurred on two other small, icy moons of Saturn--Atlas and Pan. Icy stuff swarming around in Saturn's rings apparently piled up around each moonlet's equator. The existence of such powerful roaring winds kicking up violent and powerful dust storms suggests that the underlying sand can be set in motion, too, and that the giant dunes covering Titan's equatorial regions are still active and continually changing. Dr. Porco further believes that Enceladus's orbit could have been much more eccentric in the past. The greater the eccentricity, the greater the tidal squeezing, and the resulting structural variations produce heat. In this case, the heat would have been saved inside the icy moon, melting some of the ice to replenish the liquid water sea. Dr. Porco continued to explain that "(T)he tidal flexing occurring now is not enough to account for all the heat presently coming out of Enceladus. One way out of this dilemma is to assume that some of the heat observed today was generated and stored internally in the past... (N)ow that the orbit's eccentricity has lessened, the heat emanating from the interior is a combination of heat produced today and in the past."