NASA proves that it’s not all about New Horizons lately by revealing mysterious red streaks on Saturn’s moon, Tethys, discovered in April of this year, but just recently made public. Pluto is not the only planet undergoing an attentive photo shoot, as the Cassini spacecraft captured puzzling images of Saturn’s fifth largest moon.
New pictures of Tethys reveal thin red streaks arching along the moon’s icy surface and it’s still a mystery as to what they are or what caused them. It’s so far one of the most unusual features ever captured by Cassini’s camera, though it should be noted that the image had underwent a series of processes.
It’s not as it would be seen by the human eye. Cassini spacecraft scientists had taken several pictures and overlaid them one upon the other, combining a number of effects in order to obtained the publicized photo. They used infrared filters and ultraviolet parts of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to bring visible light to the final product.
After adding a combination of a pseudo red, green and blue (RGB) color mode, the final image presented the unseen before red streaks across the moon’s surface. It has been months since their discovery and yet their origins remain unknown in regards to when, what or why they’re there. Though, of course, theories have been brought to attention.
One possibility is that the icy surface has been tainted with red impurities that created the reddish-brown arches and another is that gas releases from the moon itself could have caused the odd marks. Similar features are found more commonly on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, but that has still not provided them an accurate connection.
What is mostly certain at this point is that the mysterious red streaks have recently developed, given their relative position to the surface’s texture and terrain. The icy moon has over 1,000 miles in diameter, so it’s possible that subtle details may have been missed and will soon come to light after deeper investigation.
Cassini scientists plan on performing additional observations when the spacecraft will approach Tethys again later this year, but worry that since the origins of the red streaks are unknown, they might disappear soon due to exposure to the space environment. While described as relatively recent, their precise age in years is unknown and if the marks are only as thin as they appear, they might quickly fade off the icy surface and prevent proper analysis.
Image source: cnet.com