Us and Enceladus

Enceladus is the 6th largest moon of Saturn. It has the distinction of being the most reflective object in the solar system.

Photo by NASA’s Cassini Probe

The bond albedo of Enceladus is 0.81.

Let’s figure out what the average temperature of Enceladus should be using the standard approach. This is determined by 2 things:

  1. Insolation
  2. Longwave Radiation from Saturn.

The combined formula is:

( ( TSI*(1-Ea)/4 + (TSI*(1-Sa)/(Ds/Rs)^2)/4 )/σ )^0.25

TSI = Total Solar Irradiance

Ea = Enceladus Bond Albedo, Sa = Saturn Albedo

Rs = Saturn Radius, Ds = Distance from Saturn to Enceladus

We use data from here, here, Albedo from [Howett 2010] & Emissivity = 1 from [Howett 2003].

Do the math:

14.82*(1-0.81)/4 + (14.82*(1-0.342)/3.9494^2)/4 =

0.704 + 0.156 = 0.86

(0.86 / 5.67e-8)^0.25 = 62.4K

So 62.4 K should be the average temperature of Enceladus. Is it?

No it’s not.

The average is about 13 K higher. This just goes to show that the standard climate science approach of using greybody calculations is wrong. It’s wrong everywhere except where temperatures accidently correspond.

There is also definitely no explanation for Enceladus’ south pole aside from internal heat.

And if tiny planetary bodies have plenty of leaking internal heat, may not the Earth?

Based on data from previous flybys, which did not show the south pole well, team members expected that the south pole would be very cold, as shown in the left panel. Enceladus is one of the coldest places in the Saturn system because its extremely bright surface reflects 80 percent of the sunlight that hits it, so only 20 percent is available to heat the surface. As on Earth, the poles should be even colder than the equator because the sun shines at such an oblique angle there…

Equatorial temperatures are much as expected, topping out at about 80 degrees Kelvin (-315 degrees Fahrenheit), but the south pole is occupied by a well-defined warm region reaching 85 Kelvin (-305 degrees Fahrenheit). That is 15 degrees Kelvin (27 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than expected. The composite infrared spectrometer data further suggest that small areas of the pole are at even higher temperatures, well over 110 degrees Kelvin (-261 degrees Fahrenheit). Evaporation of this relatively warm ice probably generates the cloud of water vapor detected above Enceladus’ south pole by several other Cassini instruments.

The south polar temperatures are very difficult to explain if sunlight is the only energy source heating the surface, though exotic sunlight-trapping mechanisms have not yet been completely ruled out. It therefore seems likely that portions of the polar region are warmed by heat escaping from the interior of the moon. This would make Enceladus only the third solid body in the solar system, after Earth and Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, where hot spots powered by internal heat have been detected.


Don’t expect NASA to tell you how much Earth’s internal hotspots contribute to recent warming.


Published by Zoe Phin

23 thoughts on “Us and Enceladus

  1. Fantastically powerful example to beat up on the mainstream from all possible angles. These people just won’t take “no” for an answer. Yet I have a few friendly amendments which I posted at Joanne’s place:

    I accept your premise that planets create thermal energy but I have to caution you on this one because there are other forms of energy that the mainstream have ALSO made taboo. I think earth is creating a huge amount of thermal energy at its (voided) core. But Encelapus …. not so much.

    Electrical energy in my view comes from these sources

    1. Moving electrons
    2. Moving protons
    3. Moving ions
    4. Discharge of built up electrical capacitance.

    Jupiter has a proton wind. My understanding is that Saturn has an EVEN STRONGER proton wind than Jupiter. Another factor is that orbits of two or more large gravitational bodies are OVER-UNITY energy-wise. Despite all this conservation of energy error. We know this for a fact. Take IO. Its blazing away with volcanoes all the time. The mainstream says these are from tidal forces. Well a little bit of the energy comes that way but IO, like our moon, does not lose energy and fall into its alleged gas giant ….. Here we see that orbits being ENERGY-CREATORS is totally proven.

    Now lets list the sources of energy that Enceladus is getting:

    1. Solar wind from Saturn.
    2. Discharge of electrical capacitance from Saturn.
    3. Solar wind from the sun
    4. Discharge of electrical capacitance from the sun
    5. Tidal energy from Saturn
    6. Internally generated thermal energy.

    In this particular case, as opposed to in the case of earth, my best guess is that number six is a small part of the total picture. I say this because Encelapus is too small to have a significant voided area inside and therefore too small for a great deal of internal charge separation (as a side effect of gravity.)

    Unlike Earth its doubtful that she has quite hit her stride yet, in that department.


    1. As I’ve said before, I can’t account for induction charge. It will look like geothermal to me.

      I doubt Tidal. Enceladus orbits between Mimas and Tethys and has a completely different thermal distribution from both. This difference suggests geothermal rules.


    2. Thank you for your notes on energy sources, Visigothkhan.

      Do you think that NASA’s estimate of the solar constant, about 1361 W/m^2 for Earth, includes any effect of solar wind? If not, then how significant is the solar wind’s contribution, for additional W/m^2?


    1. Postma made me realize something important that I missed, without him saying it. What if we start with an albedo of 0? Specific heat may keep some insolation over a rotation period, and then this causes albedo. In other words, some solar energy is still present and so albedo grows. If that’s the case, I will need to reduce geothermal (as it may be solar). I think Postma could explain Enceladus, except the south pole. He definitely can’t explain Venus at all. The standard approach can’t explain anything anywhere.


        1. I was thinking about thermal inertia. Something I neglected. This puts a dent in my geothermal theory, but not completely.

          Think of it this way: you warmed an object to thermal equilbrium. It’s albedo can be thought of as 1 – no more heat flow.

          The radiation budget diagram is a purposeful confusing mess. It even tricked me, I suspect. Why is so much solar rejected? Because it’s still there from the last rotation. Those molecules are still vibrating with shortwave radiation, cooling, but not cooled. As you know, photons either add heat or die. I now think a lot of insolation that is “reflected due to albedo” is actually previous insolation that made it that hot – so now no more is needed.

          I tested a simple model to prove it. And the numbers are too close to be a coincidence.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I like looking at other bodies in our solar system.
    If one had the strange desire of increasing the average surface temperature of Enceladus. What would the best way to do it?


        1. I don’t believe in the heat death of the Universe. I don’t believe in Snowball Earth. And don’t believe Venus had ocean. But it seems even the Venus ocean believers, don’t believe Venus had ocean like Earth’s ocean. And if Venus didn’t have ocean like Earth’s ocean, then Venus wasn’t like Earth. Or Earth is not like Earth is it’s ocean was 2000 meter shallower.
          What do you think Earth would be like if it’s ocean were 2000 meters shallower? Or how about if Earth ocean was 2000 meters higher?

          And I believe we have had different Earths merely due to plate tectonic changes the Land and Ocean configuration.
          Or Earth wasn’t Earth 300 million years ago. Or Earth was not Earth 1 billion years ago, etc. Though It seems to me the Moon has roughly been the same for over 1 billion years. Mars has had more change in billion years than the Moon has had. I used to think that Mars might have some very ancient ice, but it seems if Mars has any ice over 200 million years old, it would be a bit surprising to me. Though I like being surprised.


        2. You believe in perpetual motion?
          An Earth with 2000 meters less ocean would have a hotter “surface”.
          Maybe Earth is not that old? It’s hard to tell. Could be 100 million years old. The radio-isotopes tell very little.


  3. Earth has impact craters older than 100 million years. If Earth were only 100 million years, than Earth has had much more impactors hitting Earth in shorter time period.
    That cause me to be more worried about getting hit by a giant space rock. And we got all volcanic eruption which are safely in the distance past. I would like it if we were spacefaring civilization, but not really because we going to go extinctic, shortly.


      1. In your original post, as I quoted above, you claimed that “the standard approach” to figuring the average temperature of Enceladus includes only insolation and longwave radiation from Saturn. That claim was false, as I evidenced by the three publications I linked, which are only a small portion of a large number of such publications.


        1. Pat on yourself on the back. If you stretch out the domain of “standard” and “mainstream” to basically include everything, then yes there are tons of additional explanations.

          This just shows you missed the point completely.


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