While it’s one of the brightest objects in our solar system, the moon Enceladus is very small.
Enceladus Moon Profile
|Discovered By:||William Herschel August 28, 1789|
|Mass:||1.08 × 10^20 kg (0.1% Moon)|
|Orbit Distance:||238,037 km|
|Orbit Length:||1.4 days|
|Surface Temperature:||-198 °C|
As Saturn’s sixth moon, it’s only 314 mi/505 km, and could fit inside the state of Arizona borders.
Astrophysicists and scientists of many types are looking hopefully at Enceladus, because although it have a frozen outer surface, the inside seems to have liquid water that has seafloor contact, and that could create complex chemical compounds for life.
The planet of Saturn is so bright that it’s almost overwhelming to viewers.
Who discovered Enceladus
In 1789 astronomer Sir William Herschel had a telescope that was high tech for its time, but so much less when compared to today’s telescopes.
Herschel still discovered two moons around Saturn, including Enceladus.
This little moon was very difficult to find. Saturn’s intense glare combined with the fact that Enceladus only orbits at around 147,909 mi/238,037 km, Herschel had to use Saturn’s equinox so that the glare from Saturn’s rings was less.
Herschel was using the largest telescope in the world at that time.Once discovered, they unofficially called it Saturn II.
It wasn’t until later that John Herschel, William’s son, decided to name the little moon after one of the mythological Greek Titans.
According to the mythology, the Greek god Cronus was one the original ancient gods called the Titans.
He and all of the Titans had a battle with his kids, the Olympian gods. Enceladus had snake-like limbs and was injured and buried in Sicily, Italy.
He was eternally blamed for causing volcanic activity and earthquakes from Mount Etna.
What do Scientist think?
Scientist have been studying Enceladus and have discovered that it has five (or possibly more) different surface terrains types. This form of activity is usually credited to inside thermal heat activity like the kind that happens on Earth.
Some areas of Enceladus are covered in craters due to impacts and these aren’t any bigger than 22 mi/35 km across.
There are some areas of the surface that show no crater impacts and are very smooth which indicates resurfacing has covered them up.
The surface is also shows fissures, plains, and breaks in the outer crust.
Little Enceladus is 1/7th of our moon’s diameter and yet it’s the 6th largest and most massive of Saturn’s moons. Enceladus is spherical and has a bulge at the middle due to the effects of gravitational pull.
Cassini spacecraft mission
The Cassini spacecraft mission discovered that Enceladus has an atmosphere, which is surprising due to its size and the effects that gravity has on its surface.
The south pole is a bit warmer and also seems to have a higher percentage of the atmosphere.
The space mission found surface cracks that they call “tiger stripes” that are believed to allow inner material to be vented into space through geysers.
It is the geysers that have fascinated scientists because they believe some of the material shot into space contributes to the renewal of Saturn’s rings, the sheer number of 101 geysers on Enceladus are believed to touch directly to its ocean floor.
Facts about Enceladus
- Enceladus has a lot of features on its surface and many of these are named after places and characters in the stories known as “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”
- It’s the icy surface that causes the intense reflection which is over 90% of the sunlight that hits Enceladus. Reflecting the sunlight causes cold temperatures that reach as low as -330 degrees F/- 201 degrees C.
- As Enceladus travels near Saturn, gravitational pull closes and opens cracks in its surface.
- Scientists believe that the materials from geysers hit so high in the atmosphere that future missions might be able to catch a sample without even landing.
- Observations of the Enceladus geysers have shown that some have decreased their output.
- It’s thought that in addition to liquid water, Enceladus has ammonia in the mixture which could act like an antifreeze that helps to keep the water below the surface below freezing temperature.
- How large is Enceladus?
314 mi/505 km
- What group of stories have the features on Enceladus been named after?
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights
- How many different types of surface terrains on Enceladus have been discovered so far?
- Why are scientists fascinated with Enceladus?
internal heat may have created liquid water that reaches down to the ocean floor
- What noticeable activity is seen during the Cassini spacecraft mission flyby?
- Why was Enceladus almost not discovered?
hidden by Saturn’s bright glare
- Back to : Astronomy for Kids