Based on information gathered by the Cassini spacecraft, a team of scientists concluded that Enceladus, Saturn’s icy moon, may have had a quite different position. The researchers claim that the natural satellite suffered a shift in its pole and equator. Reportedly, this change was most likely caused by an asteroid strike.
Enceladus already was a great point of interest thanks to its geological activity. This icy world was noted to spray jets of water vapor and also icy particles out into space. Also, the moon is known for its “tiger stripes” situated at what is now in the region that forms its south pole.
Enceladus and Its Shifting Axis?
According to this latest study, things may have not always stood so, literally. The researchers claim that this south pole region could have once been nearer to Enceladus’s equator. This is all based on data collected by NASA’s Saturn system mission craft, Cassini.
“We found a chain of low areas, or basins, that trace a belt across the moon’s surface that we believe are the fossil remnants of an earlier, previous equator and poles,” said Radwan Tajeddine.
He is the lead author of a new paper on the matter. Also, Tajeddine is a Cassini imaging team associate part of the Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
According to this recent study, Enceladus could have been struck by an asteroid, which caused a shift in its polar axis. This led the moon to tilt about 55 degrees and brought significant changes to the world. One of them is the relocation of the region that may have once been close to the equator but now makes up the South pole.
Tajeddine states that the terrain’s noted geological activity does not correspond to any internal processes. Like his colleagues, he considers that Enceladus’s “large reorientation” was caused by an external force. So an impact is a more likely source for the formation of the south pole’s “anomalous terrain”.
The team speculates that this presumed strike formed the moon’s “tiger stripes” and also redistributed some of its mass. This caused it to “wobble” and pass through a “true polar wander” process.
Some point out that this theory could explain the difference in poles on Enceladus. While the south is younger and more active, the north one is somewhat older and also covered in craters.
Image Source: JPL/NASA