Letter

Curtain eruptions from Enceladus’ south-polar terrain

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

Observations of the south pole of the Saturnian moon Enceladus revealed large rifts in the south-polar terrain, informally called ‘tiger stripes’, named Alexandria, Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus Sulci. These fractures have been shown to be the sources of the observed jets of water vapour and icy particles1,2,3,4 and to exhibit higher temperatures than the surrounding terrain5,6. Subsequent observations have focused on obtaining close-up imaging of this region to better characterize these emissions. Recent work7 examined those newer data sets and used triangulation of discrete jets3 to produce maps of jetting activity at various times. Here we show that much of the eruptive activity can be explained by broad, curtain-like eruptions. Optical illusions in the curtain eruptions resulting from a combination of viewing direction and local fracture geometry produce image features that were probably misinterpreted previously as discrete jets. We present maps of the total emission along the fractures, rather than just the jet-like component, for five times during an approximately one-year period in 2009 and 2010. An accurate picture of the style, timing and spatial distribution of the south-polar eruptions is crucial to evaluating theories for the mechanism controlling the eruptions.

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References

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by grant number NNX13AG45G of the Cassini Data Analysis and Participating Scientists Program. We thank M. Hedman, P. Thomas and C. Howett for conversations on this topic.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Planetary Science Institute, 1700 East Fort Lowell Road, Suite 106, Tucson, Arizona 85719, USA

    • Joseph N. Spitale
  2. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

    • Terry A. Hurford
  3. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, Maryland 20723, USA

    • Alyssa R. Rhoden
  4. Rochester Institute of Technology, One Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, New York 14623, USA

    • Emily E. Berkson
  5. Film and Television Department, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Symeon S. Platts

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Contributions

J.N.S. devised the approach and wrote the majority of the text. T.A.H. and A.R.R. contributed substantially to the interpretation and to the text. E.E.B. and S.S.P. digitized many of the fractures and contributed to early efforts that led to the current approach.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joseph N. Spitale.

Extended data

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