A small moon of Saturn would have a hidden ocean beneath its surface. This is Mimas, one of the seven main satellites of this planet in the solar system. The discovery has surprised scientists and some of them consider that it would have conditions to harbor life.
Pampersalso known as the Death Star because of the enormous impact crater on its surface, It is a ball of ice about 400 kilometers wide. It is not the first time that an ocean has been discovered on one of the moons in our solar system. In fact, it was already known that two other satellites of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, house water deposits.
But Mimas is one of the least expected places to find an oceansays the study report published in Nature. Titan and Enceladus, for example, have surfaces that have varied over time, a key clue to the presence of a mass of water. But Mimas’ terrain is heavily cratered, suggesting it has been static for most of its history.
“It’s a big surprise,” Valéry Lainey, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory in France, told Guardian. «If you look at the surface of Mimas, there is nothing that suggests an underground ocean. “He is by far the most unlikely candidate.”
The team of scientists estimates that The Mimas ocean is between 20 and 30 kilometers below the surface, with temperatures that would reach tens of degrees Celsius in its deepest part. Researchers also believe that it formed relatively recently: their calculations indicate that appeared between 2 and 25 million years ago. Another aspect that stands out is that this ocean would cover at least half the volume of this small moon of Saturn.
How did they discover the ocean on Saturn’s small Moon?
For a long time, Mimas was thought to be composed primarily of solid ice and rock. In 2014, however, the team noticed a strange change in the orbit and rotation of this moon of Saturn: it was “wobbly.”
Researchers at the Paris Observatory analyzed observations of Mimas orbit made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. In the end, they discovered that its orbit around Saturn had shifted by about 10 kilometers in 13 years. Two hypotheses explained the phenomenon: the satellite had a solid, deformed core—shaped like a rugby ball—or it had an underground ocean.
Some astronomers rejected the ocean explanation because they insisted that a body of water like this would leave visible marks on the surface. But recent simulations show the opposite.
The ice cap surface of Mimas is so thick that would have kept this ocean hidden insidewithout any significant activity on its surface.
He water would be in constant friction with the rocky core of this moon of Saturn. Scientists maintain that interactions between water and rocks played a vital role in the origins of life on Earth. Therefore, this activity in Mimas would offer new clues about the origin and development of our solar system.
Lainey said he would not rule out the existence of life there. If the hidden ocean is as young as believed, life may not have had time to develop. Despite this, the scientist insists that they are only estimates and that she does not know with certainty how long ago it was formed. “I would say: why not?”