Water vapor is spewing into space from 101 separate geysers on Enceladus, an ice-covered moon of Saturn that's thought to harbor a subsurface ocean and perhaps life as well. That tally comes from a 6.5-year imaging study of Enceladus' south polar region, conducted by the Cassini orbiter and detailed in two separate papers published online Monday by the Astronomical Journal.
Researchers traced the source of Enceladus' spray using maps of the geysers and hot spots on the moon's surface. They determined that the material in the geysers had to come from deep beneath the surface. The water rises from Enceladus' hidden sea through narrow cracks in regions of the ice known as "tiger stripes." The process is explained in a NASA news release and an array of images and graphics. "In casting your sights on the geysering glory of Enceladus, you are looking at frozen mist that originates deep within the solar system's most accessible habitable zone," Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini's imaging team at the Space Science Institute, says in her "Captain's Log" entry.
- Probe Detects Sea Under Enceladus' Ice
- Geyser Eruptions Tied to Enceladus' Orbit
- Gallery: Greatest Hits From Cassini
— Alan Boyle, NBC News