Mysterious red streaks have been discovered on the large satellite Tethys, of the planet Saturn.
Tethys, named after a mythical Greek Titan, is one of Saturn’s 62 known moons, and the discovery of the recent streaks was made by NASA’s Cassini space probe.
NASA reported that unexplained, arc-shaped reddish streaks were visible on the surface of Tethys, Saturn’s icy moon. They compared the streaks to a graffiti sprayed by an unknown artist.
NASA also said that the arcs became visible for the first time, as Saturn’s system moved into the northern hemisphere, with its northern extremities becoming well-illuminated.
The Cassini spacecraft’s cameras portrayed in very vivid colors the characteristics of Tethys’ surface, whereas the differences in materials and their textures are rather subtle or unseen in natural color ranges.
The combination of ultraviolet and infrared light, and unaltered visible light with a green filter, was extremely useful for revealing characteristics of the icy moon that would have remained invisible to the naked human eye.
Tethys is a mid-sized satellite of Saturn about 1.060 km (660 miles) composed of water ice with a slight fraction of rock. Its density is very low, even lower than water. This eccentric feature is also displayed by Saturn itself. Via a scientific analogy, it is believed that if Saturn would fit inside a bathtub filled with water, the gas planet would float.
Tethys’ surface displays a wide number of craters and is cut by a significant number of elongated cavities between geologic faults that indicate tectonic-like characteristics. At the moment, however, there is no explanation for the red streaks.
Cassini has also unveiled a bright basin (i.e. a large, bowl-shaped cavity in the surface of this particular satellite), which had never been seen before.
Paul Helfenstein, scientist of Cornell University and Cassini imaging researcher, reported that the red arcs ought to be geologically young, because they trespassed older features, like impact craters, but their age in years was unknown.
Provided the stain was only a thin, colored layer on the icy soil, the exposure to the space environment at Tethys’ surface was bound to erase them in a relatively short time-frame, Helfenstein continued.
About the basin, (Odysseus), Cassini immortalized it by using a multi-wavelength portraying technique from an impressive distance of 186.000 miles.
Odysseus, the old impact crater, would be responsible for many of the geological features displayed on Tethys, astronomers say.
The unusual Tethys had been previously explored by other spacecrafts, including Pioneer 11 in 1979, Voyager 1 in 1980, Voyager 2 in 1981, whereas Cassini made its debut in 2004. An important aspect to be remembered is that Cassini is the one spacecraft which fully traversed Saturn’s orbit.
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