It was recently observed that cracks appear in Saturn’s icy and sixth largest moon, known as Enceladus. This observation was made with done by scientists with the aid of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. In their findings, it was revealed that the cracks may have been from a miles high and hundred miles long shield of vapor and ice that covers Enceladus.
The Voyager located the tall rapid stream of water which was rich in mineral and so high that it released itself into the vacuum of space. Scientists initially suspected that it may have been a remnant of even larger curtains of eruptions.
It was suspected at first that the eruptions were strong rapid stream of water, according to scientist Joseph Spitale from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona and his colleagues. Yet it turned out that they were actually huge coverings of vapor and ice. Enceladus, which is 310 miles or 500 kilometers wide, was first thought to be covered with an icy shell and as cold as the moon without geological activity. This was then proven false when Cassini picked up vapor and icy particles that were ejected from the moon in 2005.
“What became evident very quickly was that a lot of the tiny little jets we looked at were real slippery — we couldn’t triangulate them. We also saw really broad areas of emissions that couldn’t be jets — they were just huge fuzz,” Spitale said.
Also, scientist found out that the ejections were from what the scientist called “the tiger stripes.” The stripes are actually cracks that appear in the south pole of Enceladus and were each named after cities. Water goes up to the surface of the moon through different directions of cracks over the surface.
It may look like a distinct jet when looking at just part of the curtain at a distance, and yet it’s not. “It is just like if you have sheer curtains in your windows. Sometimes you are looking through more curtain and sometimes you are looking through less, so the curtains can look darker and lighter.” said Spitale.
The cracks emit very light vapor that can hardly be noticed with hands put in front of it, but this proves that there is something yet to be discovered under the moon’s cold surface with actual modelling.
“It’s a very diffuse spray of very fine particles. Unless you were looking right into the sun, you probably wouldn’t even know anything was there. The ultimate goal would be to see if there is a body of water beneath the surface,” Spitale said.