Credit: NASA-JPL/Space Science Institute
In its latest flyby of Enceladus, the Cassini spacecraft has captured a veritable array of fountains spraying ice crystals and water above the moon’s southern pole - a phenomenon unique in the solar system. Tidal forces created by gravity from the giant ringed planet and its other moons open fissures called “tiger stripes” in the deeply frozen surface of Enceladus. The gravity also warps the moon’s ice and creates enough heat to force the ice and water out of the fissures and into space. This image, taken 21 November, will be the last of the geysers for a long time. Soon that region will be shaded from the sun for 15 years, hiding the fountains from Cassini’s cameras.