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New research solves some of the mysteries of the "tiger stripes" on Saturn's moon Enceladus.
The moon has been of particular interest to scientists ever since it was observed in detail by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. With Cassini's data, scientists detected an icy, subsurface ocean on the moon and strange, tiger stripe markings on the moon's south pole that are unlike anything else in the solar system. Icy material from Enceladus' ocean spews into space through these stripes, or fissures, in the moon's surface.
Cassini - Mission - Saturn - Stripes - Nothing
"First seen by the Cassini mission to Saturn, these stripes are like nothing else known in our solar system," lead author Doug Hemingway said in an emailed statement. "They are parallel and evenly spaced, about 130 kilometers long and 35 kilometers apart. What makes them especially interesting is that they are continually erupting with water ice, even as we speak. No other icy planets or moons have anything quite like them."
In the new study, Hemingway and colleagues Max Rudolph of the University of California, Davis, and Michael Manga of UC Berkeley used models to uncover the physical forces on the moon that cause these fissures to form and keep them in place. The team was also keen to figure out why these cracks are evenly spaced and only on the south pole of Enceladus.
Moon - Solid - Changes - Orbit - Saturn
The moon isn't frozen solid, because the gravitational changes caused by its eccentric orbit around Saturn stretches it out slightly. This deformed shape causes the ice sheets at the poles to be thinner and more susceptible to splitting open, they found. This led them to conclude that the fissures that make up these tiger stripes could have formed on the moon's north pole just as well as...
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