Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Hot Enceladus

Enceladus The south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is putting out a lot more heat than was predicted, according to a new study based on Cassini data. How much more? The NASA release explains:

Data from Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer of Enceladus’ south polar terrain, which is marked by linear fissures, indicate that the internal heat-generated power is about 15.8 gigawatts, approximately 2.6 times the power output of all the hot springs in the Yellowstone region, or comparable to 20 coal-fueled power stations.

Or 13 DeLorean time machines! (On the principle that all gigawatt values must be compared to the power requirements of Dr. Emmett Brown’s creation.)

Anyway. A previous study predicted that 1.1 gigawatts of heat would be produced by the tidal forces from Enceladus’ 2:1 orbital resonance with Dione, and another 0.3 gigawatts from natural radioactivity. It’s apparently an order of magnitude greater. More heat means a greater likelihood of liquid water under Enceladus’ icy surface, which especially gets astrobiologists all excited.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.)