Scientists observing Saturn’s moon Dione have spotted some very strange stripes on it and a new study has determined how those stripes may have gotten there.
As Space reports, scientists have been able to analyze data that was captured by NASA’s past Cassini mission, which concluded last year. In some of the photographs that were taken by Cassini, bright and thin stripes are visible on Dione’s surface, and they look very much like ones that have also been discovered on Rhea, another moon of Saturn.
However, on Dione these lines are strictly parallel and seem to be fresh and new. They have also only been detected around the middle of the moon. According to the new study’s co-author Alex Patthoff, who is a geologist at the Planetary Science Institute, the orientation of the lines is entirely bizarre and very different from anything else that has ever been seen before, as was explained in a public statement made by PSI.
“Their orientation, parallel to the equator, and linearity are unlike anything else we’ve seen in the solar system. If they are caused by an exogenic source, that could be another means to bring new material to Dione. That material could have implications for the biological potential of Dione’s subsurface ocean.”
It was further found that the stripes found on this moon of Saturn were not affected by topography, demonstrating that they are relatively young in age.
“Dione’s linear virgae are generally long (10 to 100s of kilometers), narrow (less than 5 kilometers) and brighter than the surrounding terrains. The stripes are parallel, appear to overlie other features and are unaffected by topography, suggesting they are among the youngest surfaces on Dione.”
To try and learn more about how these stripes could have gotten on Dione, Pathoff pondered whether the surface of the moon could be acting similarly to tectonic plates on Earth with different parts jutting up against other. Another theory was that perhaps there were boulders that were moving around Dione and leaving imprints in their wake.
According to Astrobiology Magazine, the stripes on Dione have probably accumulated because of debris falling from Saturn’s rings or passing comets, although Saturn’s other moons Helene and Polydeuces are also implicated.
As Patthoff further explained, “The evidence preserved in the linear virgae has implications for the orbital evolution and impact processes within the Saturnian system. Plus, the interaction of Dione’s surface and exogenic material has implications for its habitability and provides evidence for the delivery of ingredients that may contribute the habitability of ocean worlds in general.”
The new study, which demonstrates that the bizarre lines found on Saturn’s moon Dione are most likely caused by debris from outside sources like Saturn’s rings, has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.