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The Snowy Start to Enceladus’ Tiger Stripes Explained

This image of the Tiger Stripes  is a composite of the images taken from the CASSINI mission.

Since the Cassini spacecraft first brought the stripes to the world’s attention in 2005, planetary scientists have posited several explanations for their formation. Hemingway’s model is the first of these to simultaneously answer the following five key questions: (1) How do the fissures form? (2) Why do they form in a parallel set? (3) Why are they each around 35 kilometers apart? (4) Why do they appear on the south pole? And, (5) Why are they found only on Enceladus?

To answer these questions and understand why he chose to study the Tiger Stripes, we spoke with Hemingway.

How Enceladus Got Its Stripes

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, JPL, SSI, Cassini Imaging Team

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is of great interest to scientists due to its subsurface ocean, making it a prime target for those searching for life elsewhere. New research led by Carnegie’s Doug Hemingway reveals the physics governing the fissures through which oceanwater erupts from the moon’s icy surface, giving its south pole an unusual “tiger stripe” appearance.

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