Enceladus is the sixth-largest moon of Saturn and, after Titan, one of the most-studied worlds in the system. It was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel and named after the Greek mythological giant Enceladus.
Facts about Encladus
- Enceladus was first studied in detail by the Voyager spacecraft. The Cassini mission did close flybys of this moon, to map its surface in high resolution.
- Enceladus is a largely icy world with some percentage of its mass being silicates. It appears to have a rocky core mixed with with water ice, and a frozen mantle.
- Cryovolcanic activity in Enceladus is sending geysers of water ice particles out from underneath the surface. The Cassini spacecraft has imaged these geysers spouting from so-called “tiger stripes” vent areas on this moon.
- The icy particles from Enceladus spread out to space and feed the nearby E-ring with material.
- The volcanic action on Enceladus led scientists to suggest that a liquid water ocean lies under the surface of this moon, and is feeding the geysers seen by Cassini.
- Enceladus is thought to be heated from within by either radioactive heating (the decay of radioactive elements in the core) or tidal flexing as Saturn’s immense gravity pulls on the moon.
- Future missions have been proposed to explore Enceladus and perhaps bring back samples of its icy plume material. These would also study the other moons of Saturn, plus the ring system.
- As with Europa at Jupiter, scientists suspect that Enceladus could be a habitable world to some forms of life. There is no proof of life there, but future missions could test for life signs.
- Enceladus is now known to have a subsurface ocean made of liquid water. Images from the Cassini spacecraft helped mission scientists deduce and prove the existence of that ocean.
Image – http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140406.html
Profile – http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/enceladus, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/saturniansatfact.html