Enceladus' south polar sea
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Recent observations of the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus by the Cassini spacecraft have revealed an active world, powered by internal heat. In this paper, we propose that localized subsurface melting on Enceladus has produced an internal south polar sea. Evidence for this localized sea comes from the shape of Enceladus, which does not match a differentiated body at its current orbital position. We show that melting induced by the observed heat flow at the south pole produces a large enough pit to match the shape of Enceladus with a differentiated rock and ice interior. Numerical modeling of melting and ice flow shows that the sea produced beneath the south pole is stable against inflow of ductile ice from its surroundings for the duration of the heating. The shape modification due to melting also produces a negative degree-two gravity anomaly, which can reorient the spin axis of Enceladus in order to place the sea at the pole.
Author Posting. © Elsevier B.V., 2007. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Icarus 189: 72-82, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2007.01.010.