NASA has begun unveiling images from its Cassini mission which has scientists stumped. What they found has started a debate over whether “icequakes” actually grind the frozen crust of the moon.
Cassini mission controllers say the spacecraft traveled across Enceladus at a rate of 40,000 mph pass last week.
The camera from the spinning spacecraft took close-up images of the moon’s geysers. The tiger stripe geysers were first spotted in 2005.
Much of the debate was whether the frozen crust of the moon could be warm enough to release gases there. Or, if a lake hides beneath the surface inside Enceladus. Liquid water is seen as a crucial ingredient for life which only raises interest.
Scientists originally thought that the moon was too small to harbor any significant earthquake activity. The Saturn moon is 310 miles wide. They did not believe that Enceladus had a core hot enough to power geysers. Finding geysers on Enceladus surprised scientists.
The geysers appear to be about 980 feet deep, with steep walls. A snowy fallout of smooth ice lines their sides. Ice boulders the size of houses also surrounds them.
The NASA imaging team also reported signs that the geyser vents clearly have moved up and down the tiger stripes, perhaps icing themselves shut after each quake eruption.