Enceladus (Saturn II)
The eighth of → Saturn's known → satellites, discovered by Herschel in 1789. It is about 500 km in diameter and orbits Saturn at a mean distance of 238,000 km with a period of 1.37 days. Enceladus has the highest → albedo (> 0.9) of any body in the → Solar System. Its surface is dominated by clean ice. Geophysical data from the → Cassini-Huygens spacecraft imply the presence of a global → ocean below an ice shell with an average thickness of 20-25 km, thinning to just 1-5 km over the south polar region. There, → jets of → water vapor and icy grains are launched through fissures in the → ice. The composition of the ejected material measured by Cassini includes salts and silica dust. In order to explain these observations, an abnormally high heat power is required, about 100 times more than is expected to be generated by the natural → decay of → radioactive elements in rocks in its core, as well as a means of focusing activity at the south pole. According to simulations, the core is made of unconsolidated, easily deformable, porous rock that water can easily permeate. The → tidal friction from Saturn is thought to be at the origin of the eruptions deforming the icy shell by push-pull motions as the moon follows an elliptical path around the giant planet. But the energy produced by tidal friction in the ice, by itself, would be too weak to counterbalance the heat loss seen from the ocean; the globe would freeze within 30 million years. More than 10 GW of heat can be generated by tidal friction inside the rocky core. Water transport in the tidally heated permeable core results in hot narrow upwellings with temperatures exceeding 90 °C, characterized by powerful (1-5 GW) hotspots at the seafloor, particularly at the south pole. The release of heat in narrow regions favors intense interaction between water and rock, and the transport of hydrothermal products from the core to the plume sources (Choblet et al., 2017, Nature Astronomy, doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0289-8)
In Gk. mythology Enceladus was a Titan who battled Athene in their war against the gods. When he fled the battlefield, Athene crushed him beneath the Sicilian Mount Etna.
Enkelâdos, from the original Gk. pronunciation of the name.