NASA is looking into six moons of Saturn & Jupiter that have seas of actual water under the surface, which may support extraterrestrial life. Other moon, long thought to be a desolate ice rock, might be joining them.
Mimas is a tiny Saturnian moon with a big, prominent crater that has been likened to the Star Wars Death Star. Due of its highly cratered exterior, experts have recently assumed Mimas is an immobile ice ball. Because variations in the exterior ice plaster over craters, icy planets with seas are generally smooth or fractured. Tidal pressures extend and relax these moons, cracking the surface ice and heating the interiors, which keeps internal oceans alive.
However, the Cassini project, which orbited Saturn for almost a decade and investigated it, discovered an unanticipated fluctuation in Mimas’ spin. Mimas wobbles somewhat when it rotates on its axis. According to a new study, such oscillations might indicate the presence of an ocean deep under the moon’s surface.
Mimas’ movement might imply that when Saturn rotates, its gravity strains and relaxes it, similar to how the moon’s gravity pulls Earth’s ocean backward and forth throughout tides. This mechanism might generate heat deep within Mimas, melting its interior ice and forming a subterranean ocean of water in liquid form.
Rhoden and Walker created computer models to replicate Mimas’ expanding process, describing how it would affect the moon’s ice shell’s structure and how it would tie in with Cassini’s oscillation observations. According to the model, Saturn’s tidal effect might keep an ocean under 14 to 20 kilometers of ice on Mimas.
“The work doesn’t prove that there is a subsurface ocean on Mimas, but it does show that an ocean is perfectly consistent with the available data and our understanding of the physics, and the authors are appropriately cautious about this. I think the study also opens as many questions as it answers,” explained space scientist Michael Bland.
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