Researchers found evidence of geological activity in the northern hemisphere of the natural satellite, which has the potential to harbor life.
From infrared images that were collected by the Cassini mission, NASA was able to find evidence of fresh ice in the northern hemisphere of Enceladus, a moon that has the potential to harbor life.
The article with the results was recently published in the scientific journal Icarus.
The ice may have resurfaced from Enceladus’ interior. Underneath its icy crust, it has an ocean that is probably heated by hydrothermal vents, much like those that exist here on Earth, at the bottom of the ocean.
The new discovery was made possible by Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), which collected the reflected light from Saturn, its rings, and its top ten icy moons and separated it into different wavelengths, allowing researchers to analyze the composition of the materials that reflected it.
With this information and the images captured by Cassini, it was possible to create a new spectral map of Enceladus.
It shows that infrared signals in the northern hemisphere of the moon are related to the release of plumes of ice grains and vapor that were previously identified at the moon’s south pole, where the surface shows “tiger stripes”.
“The infrared shows us that the surface of the south pole is young, which is not a surprise because we knew about the jets that blast icy material there,” said co-author Gabriel Tobie, VIMS scientist of the University of Nantes in France.
“Now, thanks to these infrared eyes, you can go back in time and say that one large region in the northern hemisphere appears also young and was probably active not that long ago, in geologic timelines.”
Cassini was sent into space in 1997, and entered Saturn’s orbit in 2004. The spacecraft ended its journey in September 2017, when NASA plunged it into Saturn’s atmosphere.