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The most detailed temperature map to date of the "Tiger Stripe" region on the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus reveals that the area is even warmer than previous measurements indicated. Jets resembling geysers are erupting from cracks in the icy crust of this region, so named because the fissures look like the stripes of a tiger.
The temperature measurements were made by the Cassini spacecraft’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) during the spacecraft’s close flyby of the moon on March 12, 2008. The warmth suggests the possibility that there might be liquid water beneath the ice. Liquid water, together with abundant organic material detected by Cassini as it flew through the jets, would make Enceladus a promising place to search for extraterrestrial life.
Cassini flew through the jets during this flyby of the moon, and the spacecraft's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer saw a much higher density of volatile gases, water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as organic materials, some 20 times denser than expected. Organic materials contain carbon and are necessary for life as we know it. Mission scientists say the organics "taste and smell" like some of those found in a comet. The jets themselves harmlessly peppered Cassini, exerting measurable torque on the spacecraft, and providing an indirect measure of the plume density.