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Bursting at the Seams

Category: Moons > Enceladus

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the famed

Bursting at the Seams
February 23, 2010
Full-Res: PIA11688

Note: This image has been rotated 180 degrees from its original orientation published on Feb. 2, 2010.

Caption updated July 28, 2014
Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice and vapor from many locations along the famed "tiger stripes" near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The tiger stripes are four prominent, approximately 84-mile- (135-kilometer-) long fractures that cross the moon's south polar terrain.

This two-image mosaic is one of the highest resolution views acquired by Cassini during its imaging survey of the geyser basin capping the southern hemisphere of Saturn's moon Enceladus. It clearly shows the curvilinear arrangement of geysers, erupting from the fractures. .From left to right, the fractures are Alexandria, Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus.

As a result of this survey, 101 geysers were discovered: 100 have been located on one of the tiger stripes (Surveyor's Map of Enceladus' Geyser Basin), and the three-dimensional configurations of 98 of these geysers have also been determined (Geyser Basin in 3-D). The source location of the remaining geyser could not be definitively established. These results, together with those of other Cassini instruments, now strongly suggest that the geysers have their origins in the sea known to exist beneath the ice underlying the south polar terrain.

These findings from the imaging survey, of which the two images composing this mosaic are a part, were presented in a paper by Porco, DiNino, and Nimmo and published in the online version of the Astronomical Journal in July 2014:

A companion paper, by Nimmo et al. is available at:

Original caption (Feb. 2, 2010)

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the famed "tiger stripes" near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The tiger stripes are fissures that spray icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds.

More than 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen in this image and more than 20 of them had not been identified before. At least one jet spouting prominently in previous images now appears less powerful.

This mosaic was created from two high-resolution images that were captured by the narrow-angle camera when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew past Enceladus and through the jets on Nov. 21, 2009. (For other images captured during the same flyby, see Enceladan Tectonics and Baghdad Sulcus in 3-D ). Imaging the jets over time will allow Cassini scientists to study the consistency of their activity.

The south pole of the moon lies near the limb in the top left quadrant of the mosaic, near the large jet that is second from left. Lit terrain seen here is on the leading hemisphere of Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across).

Cassini scientists continue to study the question of whether reservoirs of liquid water exist beneath the surface of the moon. See Baghdad and Cairo Sulci on Enceladus and Jet Blue to learn more.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 14,000 kilometers (9,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 145 degrees. Image scale is 81 meters (267 feet) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and The Cassini imaging team homepage is at

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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