The surface of the satellite turned out to be covered by an exceptionally thick layer of loose snow. In some areas, it can be as deep as 700 meters.
Saturn's satellite Enceladus is considered one of the most suitable places for the development of life in the entire solar system. Beneath its icy surface lies an ocean of salty liquid water, which occasionally rises to the surface in geysers shooting out of deep crevasses. Nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide and even primitive organic compounds have been found in these emissions.
Unfortunately, it is hardly possible to reach the ocean and see it directly. This will require not only getting to Enceladus, but also breaking through the ice crust, which can be up to 20-25 kilometers thick. Not without reason, scientists propose to determine the presence of life without landing on the satellite, by analyzing the gases it emits. Descent and work on the surface is further complicated by the loose snow that covers Enceladus.
Emissions from local geysers partially escape into space and replenish one of Saturn's rings. However, most of this substance falls back to the surface, accumulating on it. The safety of landing on Enceladus depends on the depth and density of this layer.
Emily Martin and her colleagues noticed one of the features of Enceladus' surface, numerous chains of potholes. Similar systems are known on other celestial bodies, including Mars and Earth. They are formed by the sinking of loose soil, snow or other material into the hollows hidden beneath it.
The diameter, slope steepness, and other details of the geometry of such pits depend on the thickness and density of the loose layer. After studying the formation of chains of potholes in Iceland, scientists compared their findings with what can be observed on Enceladus. As a result, they concluded that the thickness of the snow cover on its surface reaches hundreds of meters, up to 700 meters in some areas.
Scientists estimate that to accumulate such a layer geysers would have to act with the same force as they do now for 4.5 billion years - the entire time the satellite has existed. It's hard to believe this, so the authors believe that Enceladus was more active in the past than it is today.