(ORDO NEWS) — The Cassini mission showed that Saturn’s smallest moon, Mimas, can hide an internal liquid ocean under many kilometers of ice.
The moon Mimas has a large crater on its surface, which is why it is compared to the Death Star from the popular science fiction Star Wars franchise. However, not only this attracted the attention of astronomers, but something unusual in the behavior of the satellite.
Data from NASA‘s Cassini mission has shown strong evidence for a strange wobble as Saturn’s moon spins, which could indicate the possibility of detecting an internal liquid ocean.
Scientists take into account the fact that in order to maintain a certain temperature, objects must necessarily be closer to their star. However, the presence of underground conditions may indicate the presence of underground oceans, which radically changes the above idea.
Therefore, it is possible that there are many similar habitable worlds in the universe with oceans below the surface.
“Because the surface of Mimas is filled with craters, we thought it was just a piece of frozen ice,” said Southwestern Research Institute researcher Alyssa Roden.
“Inland water ocean worlds like Enceladus and Europa tend to break up and show other signs of geological activity.”
According to astronomers, “It turns out that the surface of Mimas ‘outwitted’ us, and our unexpected discovery significantly expanded the definition of a potentially habitable world in the solar system and in deep space.”
Mimas, discovered by William Herschel in 1789, has a more eccentric orbit than Enceladus. This means that he must experience more powerful tides.
At the same time, the activity of the satellite is much lower than that of Enceladus. In this regard, astrophysicists initially decided that Mimas was completely frozen. That is, in such a state, nothing could exist there.
However, recently scientists have recorded signs of physical wobbles, which suggests that it is not 100% solid, otherwise the object would not wobble in such a strange way.
It turns out that the hovering of the satellite of Saturn indicates that it has a differentiated core or, most likely, a liquid ocean.
In their work, the astrophysicists used “tidal heating models” to explain the presence of ice sheets up to 32 kilometers thick over the liquid ocean.
“While the results of the studies confirm the presence of a liquid ocean in Mimas, it is difficult to reconcile its geological and orbital features with our current understanding of its thermal evolution,” says Rodin.
Scientists are confident that Mimas’s findings represent a more than compelling target for continuing these studies.
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