Enceladus Moon Facts
Cassini image of the geologically active moon.
- Enceladus is the second moon in distance from Saturn.
- It is only 311 miles (500 km) in diameter, the sixth largest of Saturn's moons.
- It orbits around Saturn every 1.37 days at an average distance of 148,000 miles (238,000 km).
- It is believed that Saturn's gravity impacts tremendous tidal forces on Enceladus turning a layer of its subsurface into liquid.
- The "tiger stripes" at its south pole are fissures which erupt with warm ice.
- Ice erupting from Enceladus travels at over 800 miles (1300 km) an hour travelling thousands of miles into space.
- The eruptions of ice from Enceladus make up Saturn's outer E-ring.
- Enceladus reflects 100% of the light it receives, making it the most reflective object in the entire solar system.
- The surface area of Enceladus is only 15% larger than Texas.
- Enceladus was discovered in 1789 by the British astronomer William Herschel.
Surface fractures, nicknamed "The Tiger Stripes"
Enceladus SurfaceEnceladus has several different types of terrain. Parts of the moon are cratered but other areas are smooth indicating a young, geologically active surface. There are also fissures, plains and crustal deformations.
Enceladus AtmosphereEnceladus has an extremely thin atmosphere consisting mainly of water vapor. The moon is far too small to hold on to its own atmosphere but it is being constantly replenished by eruptions of ice from its surface.
Enceladus TemperatureAs a result of reflecting so much light, surface temperatures on Enceladus are on average around -201C (-330F).
Fissures erupting with ice particles at Enceladus's south pole
Life on EnceladusThe water ice erupting from the south pole of Enceladus is most probably caused by a deep warm ocean under its frozen surface. In 2008 the Cassini spacecraft conducted an ambitious fly through of the plumes, detecting huge amounts of organic chemicals emanating from the small moon. Sodium has also been detected in the spray meaning that the subsurface ocean would be salty just like on Earth. All of these ingredients make Enceladus one of the most exciting and promising places in the solar system where life could exist.
Origin of NameEnceladus was named after a giant from Greek mythology.