In Brief: A New study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters details a bizarre discovery on the surface of Dione, one of Saturn’s Moon. The moon is covered by strange stripes like no other moon in the solar system. Strangely, all stripes are oriented in the same way.
Image: Crescent Dione from Cassini, October 11, 2005. Image Credit: NASA
Astronomers have recently made a bizarre discovery on the Surface of Saturn’s Moon Dione.
Dione is covered in mysterious stripes like no other moon in the solar system. The Bright long stripes are like nothing astronomers have ever seen, and the strangest part is, no one knows for sure how they got there, or what created them.
According to astronomers, the stripe’s orientation, parallel to the equator, and linearity are unlike anything else we’ve seen in the solar system.
The odd stripes on the surface of Dione. Image Credit: Alex Patthoff
“They’re just really bizarre,” said study co-author and planetary scientist Emily Martin of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
“It’s really exciting when you see something really strange, and you’re just trying to figure out what the heck it could possibly be.”
The bizarre stripes–linear virgae–on the surface of Dione are generally long (10 to 100 kilometers), narrow (less than 5 kilometers) and brighter than the surrounding terrain.
The stripes are parallel, seem to overlap other features and are not affected by topography, suggesting that they are among the younger surface parts of Dione.
“Their orientation, parallel to the equator, and linearity are different from anything else we have seen in the solar system,” said Alex Patthoff lead author of the study.
According to Patthoff, the odd stripes may have been ‘brought from the outside’.
Saturn and its moon Dione. Image Credit: NASA / Cassini
Patthoff explains that if Dione’s stripes “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.”
Dione was discovered in 1684 by Giovanni Cassini; the name comes from Greek mythology.
Dione is mainly composed of frozen water. However, given that Dione is the densest moon of Saturn (apart from Titan, whose density is greater by gravitational compression), astronomers believe it must have denser materials inside, such as silicon rocks.
Curiously, with a diameter of 1122 km (697 mi), Dione is the 15th largest moon in our Solar System and is believed to be massive than all known moons smaller than itself combined.
The study detailing the odd stripes on the surface of Dione has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and titled ‘Mysterious linear features across Saturn’s moon Dione.’
Patthoff’s research was funded by a grant from NASA’s Cassini Data Analysis Program.
While experts still have no idea what exactly caused the mysterious stripes on the surface, one theory suggests they may have been created by Saturn’s Rings, or impacts from the debris of other moons orbiting Saturn.
However, the most bizarre feature is that all stripes are oriented in the same way.