Porco, C., Nimmo, F., DiNino, D. (2015). "ENCELADUS' 101 GEYSERS: PHANTOMS? HARDLY" AGU Abstracts Abstract P13A-2118 presented at 2015 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 14-18 Dec.
The discovery by the Cassini mission of present-day geysering activity capping the southern hemisphere of Saturn’s moon Enceladus (eg, Porco, C. C. et al. Science 311, 1393, 2006) and sourced within a subsurface body of liquid water (eg, Postberg, F. et al. Nature 459, 1098, 2009; Porco, C.C. et al. AJ 148, 45, 2014, hereafter PEA], laced with organic compounds (eg, Waite, J.H. et al. Science 311, 1419, 2006), has been a significant one, with far-reaching astrobiological implications. |
In an extensive Cassini imaging survey of the moon’s south polar terrain (SPT), PEA identified 101 distinct, narrow jets of small icy particles erupting, with varying strengths, from the four major fractures crossing the SPT.
A sufficient spread in stereo angles of the 107 images used in that work allowed (in some cases, many) pair-wise triangulations to be computed; precise surface locations were derived for 98 jets. Recently, it has been claimed (Spitale, J.N. et al. Nature 521, 57, 2015) that the majority of the geysers are not true discrete jets, but are “phantoms” that appear in shallow-angle views of a dense continuous curtain of material with acute bends in it. These authors also concluded that the majority of the eruptive material is not in the form of jets but in the form of fissure-style ‘curtain’ eruptions.
We argue below the contrary, that because almost all the moon’s geysers were identified by PEA using multiple images with favorable viewing geometries, the vast majority of them, and likely all, are discrete jets. Specifically, out of 98 jets, no fewer than 90 to 95 were identified with viewing geometries that preclude the appearance of phantoms. How the erupting solids (i.e., icy particles) that are seen in Cassini images are partitioned between jets and inter-jet curtains is still an open question.