Side View of Solar System



Therefore, even though Enceladus is only Saturn's sixth-largest moon, it is amazingly active. Because of the success of the Cassini mission, scientists now know that geysers spew watery jets hundreds of kilometers out into Space, originating from what may well be a vast subsurface sea. These jets, which erupt from fissures in the little moon's icy shell, whisper a siren's song to bewitched astronomers. This is because the jets suggest that the icy moon may harbor a zone where life might have evolved. The jets dramatically spray water ice from numerous fissures near the south pole, that have been playfully termed "tiger stripes." The "tiger stripes" look like giant scratches made by a tiger's raking claws. 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." The astronomers found that larger craters, which excavated pits much deeper into the Moon's surface, only increased porosity in the underlying crust. This indicates that these deeper layers have not reached a steady state in porosity, and are not as fractured as the megaregolith.