"From the south pole of the frozen surface of Enceladus, enormous, effervescent jets of icy brine spew volumes of vapor and ice particles at high speeds. Some of the material is jettisoned into space where it is snared by Saturn's gravity, wherein Saturn's hazy E ring is created. The organic-rich compounds that make up this salty spray marks Enceladus as a potential habitable zone candidate.
Scientists theorize the jets originate deep below the moon's thick ice cap in a warm subsurface ocean and find their pressurized escape from vents along the "Tiger Stripe" trenches, nicknamed as such due to their distinct striping across the moons ever-changing southern terrain.
I've been held spellbound by Enceladus since first viewing Cassini's stunning images of it's sunlit jets and desolate landscapes. With considerate input by Dr. Carolyn Porco, I was able to better understand how to render the exciting dynamics taking place on Saturn's tiny companion."
"The geysers of Enceladus are seen here up close. They are believed to be caused by Saturn's gravitational pull and the tidal flexure of Enceladus that results from it. This is enough to melt water inside Enceladus. Pressure in the liquid water chambers ejects fine water droplets to form the geysers found in the southern hemisphere, in an area known as "The South Polar Terrain." A small fraction of the ejected ice crystals is captured by Saturn's gravity and forms its E ring.
Enceladus is one of only two moons in the solar system where geysers have directly been detected.
From the surface of Enceladus, Saturn appears more than 50 times larger on the sky than our full moon does from Earth. In this illustration, along with some moons, the rings are visible as a line cutting through the center of Saturn."
"I do these pictures of Enceladus simply because the little moon fascinates me. I might mention (while throwing modesty to the winds) that I included an illustration of a cryogeyser on Enceladus in my book "Saturn" (Lerner Publishing Co.), which was published in 2003."
"The image shows a viewpoint from within one of the tiger stripe fractures just as Enceladus is coming out of Saturn eclipse. Sunlight reddened by its passage through Saturn's atmosphere illuminates a fractured, glittering ice crystal-covered landscape, revealing two ghostly, active plumes -- the 'breath' of Enceladus."
"Enceladus, one of Saturn's many icy moons, is now known to possess underground reservoirs of liquid water which sometimes erupt to the surface in the form of great jets or geysers. These keep the moon's surface sparkling white, and even add material to Saturn's rings."
"Astronomical art, on a human scale, must often rely on images and non-visual data obtained at great distances. Enceladus is no exception. While we have seen spectacular detail in Cassini's close encounters, the view experienced from the surface must involve an educated leap of faith.
The painting uses the average human field of view, which is a bit less than 40 degrees. I began this digital painting by combining seven grayscale images from Cassini of Saturn itself. I then drew a topographic map of a section of the Tiger Stripes, relying as heavily as possible on Cassini images, but going beyond them for the kind of resolution I wanted in my landscape."
"We all know what water geysers look like on Earth, but what would one look like in world where there is no atmosphere to speak of, surface temperature is -330� F, and the escape velocity is only 870 km/hr? I imagined a geyser that was more a diaphanous aurora of ice crystals than a spray of water. In my rendering, some of the crystals have repeatedly combined to form snow heavy enough to fall back to the surface, while smaller crystals head off into space. Irregular sprays, varying velocities, and perhaps even electrostatic forces, contribute to the geyser�s chaotic appearance. Saturn itself appears low on the horizon due to the proximity to Enceladus' south pole, and the small white dot immediately to Saturn's left is the icy moon Mimas."
"If you are standing at the south pole of Enceladus, which is in the ring plane, the rings have to appear not only edge on, but parallel to the horizon. The angular width of this image is 50 degrees, about what comes from a standard lens on a camera. The venting would appear variable; the gas component is giving some bluish scattering, although there are some whiter ice particles and warmer toned organic dust in the plume.
For the surface, I wanted to show a scene near one of the fractures, and I visualized that in at least some places along fractures we might see shattered ice squeeze-ups, where faulting had jostled �plates� of ice against each other. I visualized some blue color showing up as sunlight passed through some of the cleaner ice slabs, as seen in glacial ice on Earth. I also indicated some coloration of the icy gravel by organics in the foreground and along the fracture at right, but the clean white ice of Enceladus, with some of the highest albedos in the solar system, can be seen in the distance."
"While the surface of Enceladus is reported to be as brilliant as snow in full sun, it would probably appear leaden about an hour before sunrise with a crescent Saturn as the only source of illumination. Subtending an angle of 29� in Enceladus' sky (the same width as 58 Earth moons lined up side-by-side in Earth's sky) Saturn would be a stunning panorama.
This image also illustrates a phenomenon only recently discovered by NASA's Cassini probe: sunlight reflecting off of Saturn's rings casts a faint glow onto the cloud tops of Saturn's night side. The illumination is about the same as three of Earth's full moon combined."