Saturn Smackdown! Icy Moons Burned By Radiation And Ions

If you hang out in Saturn’s intense magnetic environment for a while, it’s going to leave a mark. That’s one conclusion from scientists who proudly released new maps yesterday (Dec. 9) of the planet’s icy moons, showing dark blotches on the surfaces of Dione, Rhea, and Tethys.

Cassini has been at Saturn for more than 10 years, and compared to the flyby Voyager mission has given us a greater understanding of what these moons contain. You can see the difference clearly in the maps below; look under the jump and swipe back and forth to see the difference.

So what do these maps yield? Radiation-burned hemispheres in Dione, Tethys, and Rhea. Icy deposits building up on Enceladus from eruptions, which you can see in yellow and magenta, as well as fractures in blue. Dust from Saturn’s E-ring covering several of the moons, except for Iapetus and Tethys.

“Tiger stripes” — sources of ice spewing — in this image of Saturn’s Enceladus taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2009. Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Could these be used by future explorers seeking life in some of these moons? In the meantime, enjoy the difference between Voyager’s view in the 1980s, and Cassini’s view for the past decade, in the comparison maps below.

A caution about the maps: they are a little more enhanced than human vision, showing some features in infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths. “Differences in color across the moons’ surfaces that are subtle in natural-color views become much easier to study in these enhanced colors,” NASA stated.







Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Recent Posts

Webb NIRISS Instrument has Gone Offline

The JWST is having a problem. One of its instruments, the Near Infrared Imager and…

12 hours ago

Lucy Adds Another Asteroid to its Flyby List

In October 2021, NASA launched its ambitious Lucy mission. Its targets are asteroids, two in…

13 hours ago

Astronomers Pin Down the Age of the Most Distant Galaxy: Seen 367 Million Years After the Big Bang

Staring off into the ancient past with a $10 billion space telescope, hoping to find…

16 hours ago

Perseverance Takes a Selfie to Show off Some of its Samples

One of the main jobs for the Perseverance Mars rover past few weeks has been…

17 hours ago

There's a Crater on Mars That Looks Like a Bear

Facial pareidolia is the human tendency or illusion of seeing facial structures in an everyday…

19 hours ago

According to Simulations, the Milky Way is One in a Million

Humanity is in a back-and-forth relationship with nature. First, we thought we were at the…

2 days ago