Warm, perhaps ALIEN LIFE-bearing water gushers FOUND ON MOON of Saturn
Hot wet spots seen on Enceladus' stripey bottom
Boffins have now counted 101 different geysers spewing material from the surface of Enceladus, one of Saturn's icy moons.
The discovery in data collected from NASA's Cassini probe reinforces the theory that a vast ocean is sloshing about beneath the cold surface. Some consider this to be the most promising location known for life to exist off Earth.
For almost seven years to 2012, the Cassini spacecraft has scanned an area close to the south pole of the moon, which is notable for four fractures that resemble tiger stripes. It was here that the first geysers were spotted in 2005, when researchers noticed a spray of water and icy particles.
More geysers were then observed and it was discovered they could be traced back to warm spots on the moon's surface, perhaps indicating they were created by the heat caused by great sheets of ice rubbing together under the influence of Saturn's gravity.
The latest research, announced today following earlier analysis of the probe's data, suggests the hotter the spot, the bigger the geyser.
Pardon me ... how gas escapes from Enceladus
“Once we had these results in hand we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa,” said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots.”
The geysers were also found to vary in brightness as Enceladus orbits Saturn, a model referred to as "tidal flexing".
Two papers on the research – one titled How the Geysers, Tidal Stresses, and Thermal Emission across the South Polar Terrain of Enceladus are Related by Carolyn Porco, Daiana DiNino, and Francis Nimmo, and the other Tidally Modulated Eruptions on Enceladus: Cassini ISS Observations and Models – have been published in the latest edition of the Astronomical Journal. ®
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