The Cassini mission didn’t reveal new information on Saturn only, but also on its moons. As the spacecraft flew by Enceladus, it captured images of volatile jets being sprayed from the south pole of the moon. This way, researchers could tell the moon had intense hydrothermal processes going on beneath its icy surface.
The study explains the odd volatile plumes spraying from Enceladus’ south pole
The observations made by Cassini revealed the surface of Enceladus was exclusively made of ice. However, this thick layer hid an entire ocean beneath it, where a lot of processes took place. All this hydrothermal and energetic activity led to volatile compounds being easily released into plumes which penetrated its surface near the south pole.
Researchers have been wondering what might cause these reactions, but a recent study published in the journal Nature Astronomy proposes an answer. The theory states the core of Enceladus is made of an extremely porous material, which lets the water from this inner ocean to pass through it.
This phenomenon explains many other manifestations present on the moon
There, it is subjected to plenty of friction, which causes its temperature to rise. However, the temperature it attains is a lot higher than the one present in the core, so it returns to where it came from, namely to the bottom of the ocean. Here, it enters some chemical reactions with the rocks, and the result is the high number of volatile plumes which jump from beneath the icy surface.
Researchers have finally found an answer for many phenomena present on Enceladus which they couldn’t explain so far. The secret of the two different poles present on the moon remains unknown, but many other observations made by Cassini are now less mysterious.
“The study is the first to explain several key characteristics of Enceladus observed by Cassini: the global ocean, internal heating, thinner ice at the south pole, and hydrothermal activity.”
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory