National Aeronautics and Space Administration researchers posit tidal forces acting on fault lines in the moon’s icy shell might be causing the sides of the faults to rub against each other, producing enough heat to transform some of the ice into plumes of water vapor and ice crystals.
Francis Nimmo, an assistant professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and his research team calculated the amount of heat that could be generated by such a mechanism and concluded it is the most likely explanation for the plumes and other features observed in Enceladus’ southern polar region.
Driving the process might be the moon’s eccentric orbit, which produces tidal forces that cause the faults to move back and forth, Nimmo said.
Unlike some other hypotheses, that mechanism doesn’t require the presence of liquid water near the surface of Enceladus, noted co-author Robert Pappalardo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Via: Web India