Washington: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has given scientists a view of active fissures through the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
They have constructed the highest-resolution heat intensity maps yet of the hottest part of a region of long fissures spraying water vapor and icy particles from Enceladus.
These fissures have been nicknamed “tiger stripes.”
Additional high-resolution spectrometer maps of one end of the tiger stripes Alexandria Sulcus and Cairo Sulcus reveal never-before-seen warm fractures that branch off like split ends from the main tiger stripe trenches.
“The ends of the tiger stripes may be the places where the activity is just getting started, or is winding down, so the complex patterns of heat we see there may give us clues to the life cycle of tiger stripes,” said John Spencer, a Cassini team scientist based at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.
This Enceladus flyby, the 11th of Cassini’s tour, also gave Cassini its last look at any part of the active South Polar Region in sunlight.
The hottest part of the entire tiger stripe system was found to be part of the fracture called Damascus Sulcus. Spencer said he isn’t sure if this tiger stripe is just more active than it was the last time Cassini’s spectrometer scanned it or if the hottest part of the tiger stripe is so narrow that previous scans averaged its temperature out over a larger area.
Cassini’s new views of the heavily cratered moon will help scientists understand how tectonic forces, impact cratering, and perhaps even ancient resurfacing events have shaped the moon’s appearance.