Secret seas

Watch geysers erupt!

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the famed "tiger stripes" near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The tiger stripes are fissures that spray icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds.
Dramatic plumes spray water, water vapour and ice near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Cassini Imaging Team / Jason Major

It is thought that Saturn is orbited by around 82 moons, but its diminutive moon Enceladus exhibits some of the most fascinating features in the solar system. Fast jets of gas, water vapour and ice stream out from Enceladus’s south pole, spraying debris into space where it forms Saturn’s outermost rings. These powerful eruptions originate from a hidden ocean lying beneath its icy crust.

Ice sheets

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has a visibly cracked surface. Fissures criss-cross the thick ice sheets that cover this moon, capping a deep salty ocean three times as large as Earth’s. Like Enceladus, Europa has plumes of spraying water that erupt from its surface reaching far into space. Scientists are interested in ocean worlds like Enceladus and Europa because of their potential to support microbial life. By comparing with ice-covered lakes in Antarctica, scientists can better understand these alien ocean environments, and how to explore them.

Cross cutting cracks and ridges of varying depths cover the surface of Europa, a moon of Jupiter.
Jupiter’s moon, Europa, striated by ice cracks.
Credit: Pablo Carlos Budassi, CC-BY-SA 4.0
Thermal infrared sensor image of a crack in Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Deep blue colours around the bright orange crack indicate warm ocean water below the icy surface.
Crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen

Explore more

Watch Old Faithful erupt 90 feet into the air!

Listen to Enceladus’s atmosphere

A front row seat on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft while it flies by Enceladus

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