Scientists have studied data that NASA’s Cassini space probe has been collecting for 13 years. The researchers noticed that there is a large amount of fresh ice in the northern hemisphere of Enceladus, the moon of Saturn.
One of the main places to search for life outside of Earth in our solar system is Saturn’s moon Enceladus. It is covered with an ice crust, under which, as the researchers assume, is water in liquid form. A new map of the satellite, compiled using both visible light and infrared radiation, shows that areas of geological activity are covered with a fresh crust of ice.
Since Enceladus is covered in ice, it reflects light very powerfully and looks like a bright white snowball. To understand more about this celestial body, the researchers also analyzed the missions to Saturn that took place in 2007.
This device had an instrument called the Visible Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), which recorded how the light bounced off Enceladus, dividing it into different wavelengths and allowing scientists to draw conclusions about what it was made of.
As early as 2005, researchers have already noticed huge plumes of ice and steam, which presumably come out of the ocean below the ice surface. The new spectral map shows that infrared signals are clearly correlated with geological activity, which is easy to see at the south pole.
These new ones indicate that the Northern Hemisphere is covered with fresh ice, but also that the same geological activity has occurred in both hemispheres – a change in the landscape surface.
“Infrared light shows us that the surface of the South Pole is young, which is not surprising because we knew about jets that explode the icy material,” says study co-author Gabriel Toby of the University of Nantes.