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“Jets” of ice on Saturn moon discovered to be optical illusion

by Brandon Russell | May 10, 2015May 10, 2015 6:00 am PDT

Like an alien magic trick, new research suggests Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, might not be what we once thought.

Although there’s still the very real possibility of an underground ocean, what researchers once thought were individual discrete jets of vapor along fractures on Enceladus are now being considered nothing more than optical illusions.

“We think most of the observed activity represents curtain eruptions from the ‘tiger stripe’ fractures, rather than intermittent geysers along them,” a new study found. “Some prominent jets likely are what they appear to be, but most of the activity seen in the images can be explained without discrete jets.”

While some of these jets appear to be illusions, researchers still believe Enceladus is rife with geological activity, and could even contain environments suitable for living organisms.

“Our understanding of Enceladus continues to evolve, and we’ve come to expect surprises along the way,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist. “The little ice world is becoming more exciting, not less, as we tease out new details about its subsurface ocean and astonishing geophysical activity.”

You can get a better understanding of what NASA has been observing in the video above.

enceladus curtain eruption

NASA

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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