seismic activity of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, could provide clues to the thickness of the ice crust and the habitability of its hidden ocean. This was confirmed by a study conducted by NASA and post it in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
Enceladus is about 500 kilometers in diameter and is almost completely covered with snow. Its shiny surface reflects most of the sunlight, making it extremely cold, and the scientific community believes that ice surrounds a liquid ocean beneath.
The Moon experiences enormous tidal forces caused by Saturn and its larger satellites. These motions within Enceladus heat its interior, cracking the surface, and sometimes causing water vapor to seep through fissures called tiger stripe fractures.
Researchers used it subordinate Earth platforms in Antarctica As an analogue of Enceladus, where it can occur in the latter Small earthquakes. In detail, the scientists analyzed the data collected by seismometers along Ross Ice Shelf Between 2014 and 2016 and compared to satellite images of the region. They paid special attention to two seismometers, which were placed near large cracks in the ice sheet.
Next, they linked the seismic activity to the stresses that occur along these cracks. Most earthquakes on the Ross Ice Shelf occurred when faults were separating, a phenomenon that occurs when tides recede.
We don’t have measurements of seismic activity on Enceladus, but scientists have created models that compare the types of fractures they’ve seen on the moon’s surface with those on the Ross Ice Shelf. These models showed that higher seismic activity on Enceladus corresponds to higher tidal activity. IPeak seismic activity occurs when Enceladus exceeds 100 degrees from Saturn’s closest approach during its orbit.
The ocean acts under the ice, at this point, like water inside a balloon vibrating and ice fractures form at the most stressed points. Earthquakes are not huge along these cracks, even during times of peak stress.
“The study is – says NASA’s Mark Banning – a really basic way to investigate how earthquakes appear on Enceladus and other frigid, tidal-activated worlds, noting similar instances we can find on Earth.”
According to the study, information about seismic activity could reveal more about the thickness of the ice crust on Enceladus. At the moment, no missions are planned on Enceladus, but the European Space Agency is planning this one juice Which will be the purpose of the study Europeicy moon Jupiter.
A similar study can be done on Titan, goal NASA’s Dragonfly Mission, scheduled for 2036. Like Enceladus, Titan is covered in a thick layer of ice that could surround a liquid ocean and is a candidate to search for possible life forms.