The eruptions of Enceladus


Ice plumes erupting from the near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Barely 500 kilometres wide, Saturn’s moon Enceladus has attracted a lot of attention in recent years since the discovery of geysers shooting out from near its south pole.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted plumes, large and small, spraying water ice out from many locations along what have been dubbed “tiger stripes”…fissures in the crust that spray icy particles, water vapour and organic compounds.

The image above was taken from a distance of approximately 431,000 kilometres (268,000 miles).

In the Cassini image below, over 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen, more than 20 of which had not been seen before the image was taken.


Scientists have counted over 30 individual plumes shooting out from a region of fissures on Enceladus known as the "tiger stripes".

This mosaic was created from two high-resolution images that were captured by the narrow-angle camera when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew past Enceladus and through the jets on November 21, 2009. Imaging the jets over time will allow Cassini scientists to study the consistency of their activity.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 14,000 kilometres (9,000 miles), giving a resolution of 81 metres (267 feet) per pixel.

Here’s a short video on some of the recent investigations of Enceladus.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / ESA.

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