Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/JPL Cassini.
Everyone really seemed to enjoy that image of ice moon Enceladus and Saturn so I think I’m going to turn this series into an impromptu ZOOM series. Sooooo let’s take a closer look at Saturn’s sixth largest moon with this incredible Cassini image taken on July 14, 2005.
Starting at start, Enceladus (a giant in Greek mythology) was discovered on August 28, 1789 by none other than Sir William Herschel while using his 47 inch telescope. It’s a relatively small and reflective moon as its only 310 miles (500 km) in diameter (about 1/7 the diameter of Earth’s Moon) and reflects almost all of the sunlight that strikes it. It orbits Saturn at a distance of about 111,847 mi (180,000 km) within the E-ring and its rotational/orbital characteristics are similar to that of our Moon as it only ever shows one face to Saturn. As I stated in the previous post, it’s believed that the geysers are a major contributor to the very creation of Saturn’s E-ring and it’s also the E-ring that gives Enceladus its bright surface. As this tiny, angry ball of ice orbits through that E-ring, it gets itself covered with snowy ice that it fired off into space through the geysers long ago.
This little moon also has many different terrains, ranging from Ice plains to cratered landscapes to the youngest surface features on the entire surface; the famous Southern hemisphere Tiger Stripes.
The “Tiger Stripes” as they’re unofficially named are four, roughly 80 mile (128.7 km) long fractures in Enceladus’s South Polar Region. These fractures are named (from left to right) Damascus sulcus, Baghdad sulcus, Cairo sulcus and Alexandria sulcus (sulcus is Latin for fissure) and they’re the source of the most infamous of the some 100 geysers discovered on this icy world. The discovery of these geysers have led planetary scientists to believe that deep under the South Pole of Enceladus lies a vast liquid ocean heated by the gravitational tidal forces of Saturn itself.
Want to go in and take an even closer look? Let’s go!
CICLOPS Cassini images: http://www.ciclops.org/ir_index_main.php
Cassini Enceladus page: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/moons/enceladus/
Cassini Enceladus image collection: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/?subCategory=22
NASA JPL Photojournal: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/