Inside Enceladus, Icy Moon of Saturn (Infographic)

The geography and interior of Enceladus.
Enceladus has an extensive water ocean under its icey crust, feeding water jets that emerge from near the south pole.
(Image: © By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Saturn's moon Enceladus joins Earth, Saturn's moon Titan and Jupiter’s moon Europa in being a solar system body with liquid water on or below its surface. An ocean of water lies beneath Europa's 18 to 24 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) of icy crust. Near the moon's south pole, jets of water escape into space. Full Story: Hidden Ocean Found on Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus, Could Potentially Support Life

Saturn's rings were identified in 1655 by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. Space probe photos have uncovered the true extent of the ring system. The E ring reaches all the way to Saturn's moon Titan, which orbits 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the planet. The rings are named with letters, in alphabetical order according to when they were discovered. The moon Enceladus orbits within the E ring.

Amazing Photos of Saturn's Moon Enceladus

At 313 miles (504 kilometers) in diameter, Enceladus is one of Saturn's smaller major moons. It was discovered in 1789 by astonomer William Herschel.

Enceladus' icy surface is relatively young, since impact craters are prominent only on a portion of its surface in the northern hemisphere. Elsewhere, the moon has been resurfaced by active "water volcanoes." The smooth, icy plains of Enceladus are the most reflective surfaces in the solar system, and are composed of fine-grained ice.

In the southern hemisphere, Enceladus is marked by distinctive "tiger stripes." These ridges indicate where water from Enceladus' interior is escaping to the surface. The heat map (inset) shows that the tiger stripes are much warmer than the rest of the surface: minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 93 degrees Celsius), compared with minus 330 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 201 degrees Celsius) elsewhere.

Enceladus has a significant atmosphere composed mostly of water vapor. It is believed to originate from gases escaping from within Enceladus.

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