An ocean appears to be hiding under the ice of Saturn’s small moon

(ORDO NEWS) — American scientists have found that Saturn’s small moon Mimas may be hiding an ocean under an ice shell.

Computer modeling led them to this conclusion, which showed that the structure of the largest Mimas crater is consistent with the thinning of the satellite’s ice shell and the formation of a geologically young ocean on it.

Scientists from the Southwestern Research Institute (USA) have found unexpected evidence that Saturn’s moon Mimas can produce enough heat to maintain a liquid ocean under its icy shell.

Mimas has a diameter of only 396 kilometers and is the smallest satellite of Saturn with a rounded shape.

Its surface is covered with water ice and dotted with craters, the most famous of which is called Herschel, in honor of the discoverer of Mimas.

Observations made recently by NASA‘s Cassini space probe sent to Saturn revealed curious fluctuations in Mimas’s rotation that could indicate its geological activity.

Modeling carried out by the authors of the article showed that the conditions on Mimas allow the existence of an under-ice ocean.

In addition, the ice shell of Mimas must have been at least 55 kilometers thick at the time of the impact that created Herschel.

However, modern observations and models of Mimas indicate that the thickness of its shell cannot exceed 30 kilometers. Herschel could not form in an ice shell of such thickness without completely destroying it.

These results imply that Mimas’s ocean must have been warming and expanding since the formation of the crater, and that its icy shell has been thinning since the formation of Herschel – this could also explain the lack of fissures on Mimas.

The possibility remains that Mimas was completely frozen, both at the time of the impact and now.

But scientists have shown that including the inner ocean in the satellite models contributes to the most accurate reproduction of the Herschel shape.

The results of the study will allow a better understanding of the structure of Saturn’s rings.

In addition, the fact that Mimas is a nascent oceanic world imposes important restrictions on the formation, evolution, and habitability of all of Saturn’s medium-sized moons.


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