Tuesday January 31, 2023

Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon might be hiding an underground ocean

Researchers discovered “compelling evidence” that there was an underground ocean beneath the Death Star-like moon during a mission to determine if Saturn’s moon Mimas is geologically dead. Researchers believe that Mimas might be a “stealth” ocean world. This finding, if confirmed, could increase the number of possible habitable places in the solar system. Two of the most well-known examples of alien life in our solar system are Saturn’s Enceladus (Jupiter’s Europa) and Jupiter’s Europa (Saturn’s). Enceladus appears to have all the ingredients necessary to sustain life in its seawater. Its geysers are located near the moon’s South Pole.
However, both the surfaces of Europa and Enceladus are showing signs of geologic activity, which suggests an internal heat source that allows for liquid water to exist. However, the surface of Mimas has been heavily cratered, leading Southwest Research Institute scientist Alyssa Rhoden (SwRI), to suspect that it was “just another frozen block of ice,” according a press release.
Rhoden now believes that Mimas’s cratered appearance kept an ocean secret. Rhoden and Matthew Walker, from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson (Arizona), published their research in Icarus earlier this month. They found that small wobbles or “librations,” in the moon’s orbit detected using NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, can be explained by gravitational interactions between Saturn that produce enough heat to keep a liquid ocean under a thick icy shell. The team developed a model that suggests the icy shell is between 14 and 20 miles thick.
Rhoden stated in a release that the findings suggest that Mimas is a “compelling subject for further investigation.” She believes that studying the moon’s ability to support an ocean could help researchers understand the presence of ocean moons in distant and less-explored locations, such as Uranus.

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