Saturn’s Moon Dione Has Some Bizarre Stripes


Lengthy directly parallel strains at the satellite tv for pc’s floor may well be droppings from Saturn’s rings, some of the moons, or a passing comet, researchers counsel.

Saturn's moons

Dione sits entrance and heart above Saturn’s rings on this symbol from the Cassini spacecraft. Saturn’s biggest moon Titan lurks within the background, Pandora is to the suitable of the rings, and Pan is the tiny dot to the left. 
NASA / JPL-Caltech / House Science Institute

Saturn’s moons are a hodgepodge of misfits. Iapetus seems like the Demise Superstar from Superstar Wars. Tiny Pan resembles a cosmic empanada. And now one thing seems to be etching oddly directly strains around the icy floor of Dione.

The strains — or linear virgae, to make use of the proposed technical time period — stretch for as much as masses of kilometers, and but are lower than five kilometers large. All of them run parallel to the equator and live most effective at decrease latitudes. They’re brighter than the whole lot else round them and seem to be laid atop extant options reminiscent of ridges and craters, which means that they’ve been emplaced slightly lately. And it’s no longer transparent but how they were given there.

“We aren’t in point of fact positive how one can get such directly strains,” says Emily Martin (Nationwide Air and House Museum), coauthor on an upcoming paper describing the outside scoring in Geophysical Analysis Letters. “Linear virgae are in point of fact in contrast to anything we see within the sun gadget.”

Image of lines on Dione

This symbol from Cassini presentations one of the most linear virgae (marked with inexperienced arrows) operating throughout Dione’s floor.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / House Science Institute / E.S. Martin and D.A. Patthoff, 2018

Moons aren’t strangers to unique floor markings. Saturn’s moon Enceladus has its well-known tiger stripes, wavy ridges by which water erupts from an underground ocean. Neptune’s moon Triton has darkish streaks, most probably marked by means of deposits from plumes. Traces of particles radiate clear of craters during the sun gadget. Even our Moon has were given scalloped troughs carved by means of boulders rolling down hills.

Martin and coauthor Alex Patthoff (Planetary Science Institute) thought to be most of these situations and extra for Dione, however none appear to paintings. Dione’s strains are too lengthy, too large, too vibrant, or positioned too weirdly.

The location parallel to the equator means that the perhaps offender is one thing that used to be already in the similar aircraft as Dione’s orbit after which gently rained down at the floor.

That leaves only some choices. Subject matter from Saturn’s rings may well be sprinkling down, despite the fact that it’s no longer transparent what mechanism would pressure subject material out clear of the rings and towards Dione. There may well be some switch of subject material from satellites Helene or Polydeuces, the moons that percentage Dione’s orbit. Or in all probability the strains are particles from a comet that simply took place to cross by means of.

“If we will be able to in finding linear virgae in other places within the Saturn gadget, we would possibly be told a bit extra concerning the resources for subject material that might drape around the surfaces of those moons,” Patthoff says. “We don’t have an opportunity to get extra photographs at the moment, however we will be able to discover the entire archive of pictures that we do have from Cassini.”


E. S. Martin and  D. A. Patthoff. “Mysterious Linear Options throughout Saturn’s moon Dione.” Geophysical Analysis Letters. October 15, 2018.

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