This means that there may be many more habitable worlds in our galaxy than previously thought.
Until now, Saturn’s small moon Mimas was thought to be a rather boring specimen. But nothing is less true. Researchers have discovered that the ‘Death Star Moon’ may contain a true underground ocean. This could change our view of the Milky Way forever.
Mimas is a very small moon. For example, the surface is covered with many small pits. The most notable feature of Mimas is a large crater called Herschel; to the explorer of the moon. Mimas owes the nickname the “Death Star” to the massive, rich crater of the moon that closely resembles the Death Star from Star Wars. The crater is about 139 kilometers wide.
Scientists wanted in studying Proving that the deepest moon of Saturn is a frozen world. Surprisingly, however, they instead discovered compelling evidence that Mimas possesses an aquifer under an ice crust 15 to 12 miles thick.
frozen block of ice
In the final days of the Cassini mission, the spacecraft detected a strange oscillation. This often refers to a geologically active orb, which may only be harboring an aquifer. “Because Mimas’ surface consists of a lot of craters, we thought it was just a frozen block of ice,” said researcher Alyssa Roden. But it seems that the surface of Mimas deceived us. If Mimas does indeed possess an ocean, then the Moon represents a new class of “hidden” small ocean worlds with surfaces that do not betray the ocean’s existence.
One of the most profound discoveries in planetary science over the past 25 years is that worlds with oceans beneath layers of rock and ice are common in our solar system. For example, consider Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus. Even the dwarf planet Pluto appears to have a subterranean ocean. Worlds like ours that have an ocean on their surface must be exactly in the habitable zone of a star so that water doesn’t freeze or evaporate. But subterranean oceans are found at much greater distances from the parent star.
The fact that Mimas now also appears to have an ocean inside of it, could mean that there are more oceans in the universe than previously thought. Because distant celestial bodies may also harbor such groundwater. This may make the existence of extraterrestrial life more plausible. Roden concludes, “The discovery of Mimas has broadened the definition of the potentially habitable world in our solar system and beyond.”
Research continues in the subsurface of Mimas. “While our results support the existence of a subsurface ocean, reconciling the moon’s orbital and geological features with our current understanding of its orbital-thermal evolution is challenging,” Roden said. So more research is on the horizon. “New models of its formation and evolution may also help us better understand Saturn’s rings and medium-sized moons,” Roden continues. In addition, we may be able to find out if the moons of Uranus also harbor oceans. Mimas is therefore an attractive target for further research.”
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