Enceladus, one of the mid-sized icy moons of Saturn, has an importance to planetary science far greater than its modest 504-km diameter would suggest. Intensive exploration of Enceladus by the Cassini Saturn orbiter has revealed that it is the only known icy world in the solar system with ongoing deep-seated geological activity. Active tectonic fractures at Enceladus's south pole, dubbed “tiger stripes,” warmed by internal tidally generated heat, spew supersonic jets of water vapor, other gases, and ice particles into circum-Saturnian space. A subsurface saltwater sea probably exists under the south pole, between the ice shell and the silicate core. Because of evidence that liquid water is probably present at the jet sources, Enceladus is also of great astrobiological interest as a potential habitat for life.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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