General, Research, Technology

What can the colorful stripes on the potentially inhabited moon of Saturn mean?

Enceladus is the ice satellite of Saturn, whichIt is of great interest to scientists because of its subsurface ocean with the potential presence of life. A new study, led by scientist Doug Carnegie of the University of California, reveals the mystery of the origin of unusual cracks through which the oceanic water of Saturn’s icy satellite constantly erupts, making the south pole of Enceladus look striped and colorful.

Enceladus surface from the Cassini probe

Why is Enceladus striped?

According to the portal phys.org, for the first time seen by the Cassini space mission the unusual bands of Enceladus, made a lasting impression on scientists. Parallel and evenly spaced, “tiger” stripes are not similar to anything else found by astronomers in the solar system. Unusual formations are constantly erupted by water ice, in the particles of which the presence of at least a simple life is quite possible. Despite all its scale (the length of some “bands” is more than 120 kilometers), for some reason they are all located strictly at the southern pole of the ice moon of Saturn.

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Hoping to find an answer to the question of the appearance ofmysterious formations, the researchers found that the satellite is constantly experiencing a strong attraction of its neighbor - Saturn, which keeps Enceladus in an extremely eccentric orbit. Being subjected to the gravitational influence of the giant planet, the satellite is slightly deformed and stretches toward the neighboring planet, while at the same time warming up the bowels enclosed under a huge layer of water. Planetologists believe that it is the presence of an eccentric orbit that saves Enceladus from complete freezing.

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Enceladus water plume extends many kilometers from the satellite’s surface

The key to cracking is the factthat the satellite poles experience the greatest consequences of gravitational stretching, which significantly thins the ice crust of Enceladus in the polar zones. During periods of gradual cooling and maximum distance from the giant planet, some of the subsurface oceans of the satellite completely freeze. Concentrating from below, the icy crust of the moon of Saturn is gradually increasing internal pressure, eventually breaking up and creating the very “tiger stripes” over which the scientists have puzzled over the mystery of their appearance.

However, planetologists believe that the crack,Named after the Iraqi city of Baghdad, it was the first that was able to form under conditions of constant gravitational tension. The constant eruption of ocean water from the crack led to the formation of three more parallel faults, which currently remain open, covering the surface of the satellite with a large amount of ice.

Researchers believe that cracks discoveredat the south pole of Enceladus, they could have formed in the northern part of the satellite. Perhaps the unusual feature of the ice moon of Saturn has not yet fully manifested, and scientists are expected to discover even more new discoveries related not only to the geological structure of the satellite, but also to the potential life that we have yet to find.