The Tides of Enceladus' Porous Core

Marc Rovira-Navarro*, Richard F. Katz, Yang Liao, Wouter van der Wal, Francis Nimmo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


The inferred density of Enceladus' core, together with evidence of hydrothermal activity within the moon, suggests that the core is porous. Tidal dissipation in an unconsolidated core has been proposed as the main source of Enceladus' geological activity. However, the tidal response of its core has generally been modeled assuming it behaves viscoelastically rather than poroviscoelastically. In this work, we analyze the poroviscoelastic response to better constrain the distribution of tidal dissipation within Enceladus. A poroviscoelastic body has a different tidal response than a viscoelastic one; pressure within the pores alters the stress field and induces a Darcian porous flow. This flow represents an additional pathway for energy dissipation. Using Biot's theory of poroviscoelasticity, we develop a new framework to obtain the tidal response of a spherically symmetric, self-gravitating moon with porous layers and apply it to Enceladus. We show that the boundary conditions at the interface of the core and overlying ocean play a key role in the tidal response. The ocean hinders the development of a large-amplitude Darcian flow, making negligible the Darcian contribution to the dissipation budget. We therefore infer that Enceladus' core can be the source of its geological activity only if it has a low rigidity and a very low viscosity. A future mission to Enceladus could test this hypothesis by measuring the phase lags of tidally induced changes of gravitational potential and surface displacements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JE007117
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • enceladus
  • hydrothermal
  • interior
  • poroviscoelasticity
  • tides


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