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NASA-Funded Study Says Saturn's Moon Enceladus Rolled Over

Saturn's moon Enceladus - an active, icy world with an unusually warm south pole - may have performed an unusual trick for a planetary body. New research shows Enceladus rolled over, literally, explaining why the moon's hottest spot is at the south pole.

Enceladus
Image right: This graphic illustrates the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus. It shows warm, low-density material rising to the surface from within, in its icy shell (yellow) and/or its rocky core (red). Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute 200x200

Enceladus recently grabbed scientists' attention when the Cassini spacecraft observed icy jets and plumes indicating active geysers spewing from the tiny moon's south polar region.

"The mystery we set out to explain was how the hot spot could end up at the pole if it didn't start there," said Francis Nimmo, assistant professor of Earth sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz.

The researchers propose the reorientation of the moon was driven by warm, low-density material rising to the surface from within Enceladus. A similar process may have happened on Uranus' moon Miranda, they said. Their findings are in this week's journal Nature.

More on Enceladus. Credit: NASA