NASA Museum Washington DC



Dr. Porco believes that the icy moon, with its underground liquid sea of water, organics, as well as an energy source, may potentially host life similar to that found in analogous environments on Earth. The March 2012 images of Cassini's "tiger stripes" revealed that these cracks widen and narrow, as was suspected from pictures taken previously. The fissures also change over time more frequently than was originally thought. The two opposite sides of the fissures move laterally relative to one another. This is analogous to the way two banks of the San Andreas Fault can move forward and back, as well as in opposite directions. The greatest slipping and sliding happens when Enceladus is closest to Saturn--as scientists expected. Launched as GRAIL A and GRAIL B in September 2011, the probes were renamed Ebb and Flow by schoolchildren in Montana. The probes operated in almost circular orbit near the lunar poles at an altitude of approximately 34 miles, until their mission came to an end in December 2012. The distance between the twin probes altered a bit as they soared over areas of lesser and greater gravity that were caused by visible topological features on the Moon's surface, such as impact craters and mountains--as well as by masses that were secreted beneath the lunar surface. As time passed, the region would have cooled down considerably and contracted--thus pulling away from its surroundings and forming fractures akin to the cracks that form in mud as it becomes dry--but on a considerably larger scale.