First complete map of Enceladus reveals strange deformations and topographic features of Saturn’s icy moon

Stereo image of Enceladus showing deformed terrains, impact craters, a 1.5-kilometer-high ridge (at center left) and a large deep basin (upper left). Resolution of images is 350 meters/pixel. The images were acquired by reflected light from Saturn. In this format, the scene can be viewed in cross-eyed or wall-eyed stereo (use the center-left or center-right combination). Credit: Paul Schenk/USRA-Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Scientists have created a comprehensive global topographic map of Saturn’s icy active moon Enceladus and discovered that it is deformed and has oval-shaped craters. A team of scientists has created the first comprehensive and comprehensive topographic map of Saturn’s icy active moon Enceladus, revealing that it is even more deformed than previously thought. . In this paper, the authors show that this small ocean satellite is deformed by internal processes located outside the active region at the south pole.

The most prominent feature of the new map is the oval depression, 100 km wide and up to 1.5 km deep. In 2009, the authors published a preliminary topographic map covering less than half of Enceladus’s surface, which showed some of these depressions. However, new data has revealed that these large oval dents are mainly found on one side of Enceladus, with even larger and more complex dents visible from that bridge.

Dr Schenk, lead author of the study and an expert in mapping icy planets and moons, said: “Some of these depressions are simple oval shapes, while others are shaped like more complex correlates with tectonic features”. This shows that the ice crust floating on the Enceladus ocean is not uniform in its thickness and properties. We don’t know the exact origin of these depressions, but their overall distribution revealed by our new map is quite comparable to the hydrothermal distribution from Enceladus. If true, warm water currents could rise and touch the ice crust, causing it to thin and possibly melt locally, forming dents.

Co-author Dr William McKinnon of the University of Washington said: “To know whether Enceladus’s hydrothermal activity actually behaved this way, we will need to ‘return’ to Enceladus to determine how the moon removes excess heat.”

The new map of Enceladus is based on nearly 100 stereoscopic images of the surface created during the Cassini space probe’s flyby of Saturn, which is used to study the Moon’s tectonics. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the new topographic map is the north-south deformation of Enceladus compared to what it would look like if it were a uniform body. We know that Enceladus is somewhat pear-shaped.