Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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9-Mar-2006

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Icy volcano on saturn's moon




Click here for a high resolution photograph.

In the 10 March issue of the journal Science, scientists from all over the world talk about what Cassini saw on Enceladus. It turns out that Enceladus is a lot more interesting than Earth's moon. Earth's moon is cold and dry and quiet. Enceladus is covered in a shiny coat of new ice and snow.

At one end, the ground is cracked and broken up into blocks of ice as big as a house.



Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute and her fellow scientists also saw dark lines that look like tiger stripes on the ground. John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute and his fellow scientists used some of Cassini's tools to find out that the tiger stripes are hotter than the rest of the ground around them.

But the coolest thing about Enceladus might be its "ice volcano." With Cassini's help, the scientists saw a big jet of water and dust and ice particles shooting up into the sky in the same area as the tiger stripes. Some of the scientists think it looks like a cold geyser, like Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. One of Saturn's rings is probably made up of all this water and dust spraying up from Enceladus, they think.

With the ice volcano, the cracking ground and the hot spot under the ice, Enceladus looks like a pretty exciting place to be, at least compared to our boring moon. The Cassini scientists were surprised at how many things are happening on tiny Enceladus.

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