Astronomy Picture of the Day – The Fractured North Pole of Saturn’s Enceladus

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2015 October 21

The Fractured North Pole of Saturn’s Enceladus
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

 

Explanation: The north pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is unexpectedly fascinating and complex. Previous to the latest flyby of the robotic Cassini spacecraft, the northern region was known mostly for its unusually high abundance of craters. Last week’s flyby, however, returned images of unprecedented detail, including the featured image showing the expected craters coupled with an unexpected and circuitous pattern of picturesque cracks and fractures. Broken terrain has been recorded at lower latitudes, with deep canyons dubbed Tiger Stripes near Enceladus’ South Pole. The fractures may further indicate global interplay between the surface and potential seas underneath, seas that future missions might target for signs of life.