Scientists find new evidence of an internal ocean in Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon Mimas
- Saturn’s innermost moon ‘Mimas’ might have been hiding an internal ocean.
- The evidence comes from NASA’s Cassini mission that explored Saturn and its moons for a decade.
- An internal ocean in Mimas can help in finding out more about habitable worlds in our solar system.
AdvertisementSaturn stands out among other planets for its unique rings and for having several moons, one of most in the solar system. Among Saturn’s moons is Mimas which is famous for its resemblance to the Death Star from Star Wars. Mimas might be known for something else now, and that’s the possible existence of an internal ocean.
Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) discovered evidence that Mimas has a liquid internal ocean. This data actually comes from NASA’s Cassini mission that explored Saturn and its moons for a decade. Scientists found that Cassini had identified an oscillation in the moon’s rotations which is said to point to a geologically active body able to support an internal ocean.
According to SwRI’s Dr. Alyssa Rhoden, the possibility of Mimas having an ocean “represents a new class of small, ‘stealth’ ocean worlds with surfaces that do not betray the ocean’s existence.” It was first believed to be a frozen block of ice since the surface of Mimas is heavily cratered. But the new understanding is that it’s actually a liquid internal ocean. The libration (oscillation of the moon) is also believed to be warm enough for a liquid ocean to exist but at the same time it’s enough to not affect the moon’s icy shell.
Rhodes added that “our new understanding has greatly expanded the definition of a potentially habitable world in our solar system and beyond.”
The discovery of an internal ocean in Mimas is also expected to help understand Saturn’s rings, its mid-sized moons and the potentially habitable ocean moons, like the ones at Uranus. These oceans exist beneath layers of rock and ice and are known as interior water ocean worlds (IWOWs). Other known and popular IWOWs include Saturn’s Enceladus and Titan moons, and Jupiter’s moon Europa.
There’s more investigation required for Mimas and its internal ocean which could help in learning more about habitable worlds in our solar system.
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