CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Enceladus "Cold Geyser" Model

Enceladus "Cold Geyser" Model
PIA 07799

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  As Saturn's active moon Enceladus continues to spew icy particles into space, scientists struggle to understand the mechanics of what is going on beneath the fractured south polar terrain. This graphic illustrates key aspects of the model proposed by the Cassini Imaging Science Team in a paper published in the journal Science on March 10, 2006.

The model shows how proposed underground reservoirs of pressurized liquid water above 273 degrees Kelvin (0 degrees Celsius) could fuel geysers that send jets of icy material into the skies above the moon's south pole. In the graphic, the vent to the surface pierces one of the "tiger stripe" fractures seen in Cassini views of the southern polar terrain (see PIA06247 for a look at the tiger stripes). Temperatures increase with depth.

Some combination of internal radioactive decay and flexing - perhaps concentrated within the tiger stripe fractures and brought about by the particular characteristics of Enceladus' orbit - is implicated as the source of the heat creating the liquid reservoirs. However, it is not yet clear how the deep interior of Enceladus functions, nor whether the moon is fully differentiated (separated into layers, with rock at the center and ice outside).

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. 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-Huygens mission, visit and the Cassini imaging team home page,

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: March 9, 2006 (PIA 07799)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
Dragon_of_Luck_Mah_Jonng1971 (Oct 11, 2008 at 6:18 PM):
I'm absolutely fascinated by the Possibility Of Life On Enceladus !! There could be liquid water below the surface. Perhaps later some designs of the Europa Orbiter could be Used ( A New Spacecraft to Saturn ) . More Exactly 'Life In Enceladus`.