Enceladus's ice shell structure as a window on internal heat production

Douglas J. Hemingway, Tushar Mittal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Its extraordinary level of geologic activity, its potential for habitability, and the prospects of returning samples from its plume of erupting water ice make Saturn's small (∼500 km diameter) moon Enceladus a high priority target for future exploration and a key to our developing understanding of icy ocean worlds. The structure of its outer ice shell is particularly important as it relates to the global heat budget, the global-scale response to tidal forces, and the nature of the ongoing eruptions. It is also diagnostic of how and where heat is dissipated internally. Here, using the most recent shape model and a new approach to modeling isostasy, we obtain a shell structure that simultaneously accommodates the shape, gravity, and libration observations and suggests that tidal dissipation near the base of the ice shell is likely an important mode of internal heating. The implied conductive heat loss is greater than the heat loss associated with the eruptions but is nevertheless compatible with the condition of steady state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-131
Number of pages21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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