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Convection in Enceladus’s Ice Shell

28 Aug 2013, 09:28 UTC
Convection in Enceladus’s Ice Shell
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Observations of Saturn’s moon Enceladus by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have revealed the presence of jets of water vapour and ice particles emanating from warm tectonic ridges at the south pole of the moon. The heat required to power these jets is much larger than what may be produced by the decay of radioactive elements in the moon’s rocky core. Instead, the heating power is most likely produced by tidal heating resulting from the damping of Enceladus’s orbital eccentricity.Convective processes occurring within Enceladus’s ice shell is believed to be causing the activity currently observed at the south pole. A study done by M. Behounkova et al. (2013) investigates the effect of tidal heating on the onset of convection in Enceladus’s ice shell. Convection in Enceladus’s ice shell can only occur if there is sufficient tidal heating and if the ice grains are smaller than a critical size. In the study, the amount of tidal heating depends on the orbital eccentricity of Enceladus and on the width of the internal liquid water reservoir at the boundary between Enceladus’s ice shell and rocky core. For this study, the internal liquid water reservoir is assumed to be centred under the south pole and reservoir ...

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