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Mystery stripes on Saturn's ice moon Enceladus finally explained

Credit: TomoNews US
Published on December 11, 2019 - Duration: 01:42s

Mystery stripes on Saturn's ice moon Enceladus finally explained

SPACE — Scientists may have finally solved the mystery of the 'tiger stripes' on Saturn's moon Enceladus.

According to a study published in Nature Astronomy, the Cassini probe first detected the four strange fractures on the moon's north pole when the spacecraft orbited around Saturn 15 years ago.

According to the researchers, the 'tiger stripes' are about 130 kilometers long, with fracture lines running parallel to one another, spaced at 35 kilometers apart.

Lead author Doug Hemingway at the Carnegie Institute for Science says that the fissures constantly blow out water and ice, unlike any other formation known to exist on icy moons.

According to the research team, the tiger stripes and the formation's strange behavior is caused by the moon's 'eccentric' orbit around Saturn.

Because Enceladus' distance to Saturn fluctuates, planetary gravity stretches and flexes the moon.

This effect generates the heat that keeps Enceladus from freezing solid.

The gravitational force is so powerful that it changes the shape of the moon, with the resulting stress creating the first tiger stripe on Enceladus.

As the moon's surface ocean erupts through the fissure, the jets of water then freeze and fall back on the moon." The weight of the accumulated ice and snow puts pressure on the nearby ice sheet and breaks the crust on parallel lines.

Those fractures become the moon's stripes.

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