CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Bursting at the Seams
[For trouble viewing the images/movies on this page, go here]
Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the famed "tiger stripes" near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The tiger stripes are fissures that spray icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds.

More than 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen in this image and more than 20 of them had not been identified before. At least one jet spouting prominently in previous images now appears less powerful.

This mosaic was created from two high-resolution images that were captured by the narrow-angle camera when NASA's Cassini spacecraft flew past Enceladus and through the jets on Nov. 21, 2009. (For other images captured during the same flyby, see PIA11686 and PIA11687). Imaging the jets over time will allow Cassini scientists to study the consistency of their activity.

The south pole of the moon lies near the limb in the top left quadrant of the mosaic, near the large jet that is second from left. Lit terrain seen here is on the leading hemisphere of Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across).

Cassini scientists continue to study the question of whether reservoirs of liquid water exist beneath the surface of the moon. See PIA11114 and PIA08386 to learn more.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 14,000 kilometers (9,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 145 degrees. Image scale is 81 meters (267 feet) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Equinox Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: February 23, 2010 (PIA 11688)
Image/Caption Information
  Bursting at the Seams
PIA 11688

Avg Rating: 8.54/10

Full Size 1580x977:
PNG 380 KB

Alliance Member Comments
NeKto (Mar 22, 2010 at 3:04 PM):
I guess no one has an answer for my question about a ball park estimate about mass loss over time. Is there a range of posibilities calculated? I am very curious about this moon. Was it measureably more massive in the distant past?
NeKto (Mar 5, 2010 at 2:06 PM):
Carolyn, has anyone on the team calculated a ball park figure for the mass loss from Enceladus over time? The tectonic flows indicated in the images tell us the jets have been feeding the E ring for a long time. Was this moon substantially more massive in its remote past? or to put it another way, how much weight has this snow ball lost on the tiger stripe geyser diet?
Nitram (Feb 24, 2010 at 0:21 AM):
This is incredible. Jets also emit from Meteors. However, on our own planet Earth, we must not forget that there are numerous jets emitting underwater. These come in all fashions and types, and are called "Seabed Fluid Flow". They are common where gas hydrates form below the sediment surface - these are "cold seeps" and there are the more well known "hot vents", where supercritical water forms below ground and emits with high speed in the deep ocean above spreading ridges, where the water instantly cools to subcritical and condenses and precipitates minerals (salts and metals). Perhaps we can learn about jets and the associated physics and topography, just by looking at our own submerged world of wonders. A good start is perhaps the book by Judd and Hovland (2007), "Seabed Fluid Flow", Cambridge, 475 pp. Also check out the website:, which shows a hydrocarbon jet bursting from the Caspian Sea in 1958, when one of the numerous mud volcanoes there had a major gas blowout eruption.
enceladus5 (Feb 23, 2010 at 5:08 PM):
In respone to PiperPilot,
Maybe we will someday and personally enjoy these fantastic sights.
enceladus5 (Feb 23, 2010 at 5:07 PM):
This unique view from Cassini makes me think I am right along the spacecraft watching these fantastic plumes.
Red_dragon (Feb 23, 2010 at 4:09 PM):
You were not lying when you told us after that composition of Enceladus' south polar region that was featured in APOD that we'd better stay tuned. Excellent work!
PiperPilot (Feb 23, 2010 at 3:21 PM):
Truly wonderful. I still would like to go there!

Want to add a comment?   Login (for Alliance Members) ... or ... Join the CICLOPS Alliance!