The volcanic and tectonic history of Enceladus

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Enceladus has a protracted history of impact cratering, cryo-volcanism, and extensional, compressional, and probable strike-slip faulting. It is unique in having some of the outer Solar System's least and most heavily cratered surfaces. Enceladus' cratering record, tectonic features, and relief elements have been analyzed more comprehensively than done previously. Like few other icy satellites, Enceladus seems to have experienced major lateral lithospheric motions; it may be the only icy satellite with global features indicating probable lithospheric convergence and folding. Ridged plains, 500 km across, consist of a central labyrinthine ridge complex atop a broad dome surrounded by smooth plains and peripheral sinuous ridge belts. The ridged plains have few if any signs of extension, almost no craters, and an average age of just 107 to 108 years. Ridge belts have local relief ranging from 500 to 2000 m and tend to occur near the bottoms of broad regional troughs between swells. Our reanalysis of Peter Thomas' (Dermott, S. F., and P. C. Thomas, 1994, The determination of the mass and mean density of Enceladus from its observed shape, Icarus, 109, 241-257) limb profiles indicates that high peaks, probably ridge belts, also occur in unmapped areas. Sinuous ridges appear foldlike and are similar to terrestrial fold belts such as the Appalachians. If they are indeed folds, it may require that the ridged plains are mechanically (perhaps volcanically) layered. Regional topography suggests that folding may have occurred along zones of convective downwelling. The cratered plains, in contrast to the ridged plains, are heavily cratered and exhibit extensional structures but no obvious signs of compression. Cratered plains contain a possible strike-slip fault (Isbanir Fossa), along which two pairs of fractures seem to have 15 km of right-lateral offset. The oldest cratered plains might date from shortly after the formation of the saturnian system or the impact disruption and reaccretion of Enceladus. Another area of cratered plains has modified craters (e.g., Ali Baba and Aladdin), which some workers have explained by anomalous heat flow and viscous relaxation; lateral shear and shield-building volcanism also may have been important. A young rift-like structure (northern Samarkand Sulci) has few craters and a concentration of cracks or grabens and flattened, flooded, and rifted craters. Pit chains and cratered domes suggest explosive volcanism. Smooth plains may have formed by cryovolcanic equivalents of flood-basalt volcanism. Pure H2O would be difficult to extrude through an icy crust and is cosmochemically improbable as a cryovolcanic agent. Density relations rule out eutectic brine lavas on Enceladus, but NH3-H2O volcanism is possible. Current steady-state tidal dissipation may cause melting of ammonia hydrate at a depth of ???25 km if the crust is made of ammonia hydrate or ???100 km if it is made of water ice. ?? 1996 Academic Press, Inc.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The volcanic and tectonic history of Enceladus
Series title Icarus
DOI 10.1006/icar.1996.0026
Volume 119
Issue 2
Year Published 1996
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Icarus
First page 385
Last page 404