Discovered in 1789 by English astronomer William Herschel as a tiny dot near Saturn and first imaged in 1980
Astronomers discovered that “Mimas”Saturn’s natural satellite, “hides” a subsurface ocean beneath its icy and cratered outer shell.
If this estimate of the presence of water—which is essential for life as we know it—is correct, it could help scientists better understand where to look for “habitable worlds” in the vast yet magical space.
Scientists originally thought that Mimas was just a big chunk of ice before NASA’s Cassini mission studied Saturn and some of its 146 moons between 2004 and 2017.
One of Saturn’s smallest moons has a secret ocean
✍️ by Ashley Strickland @CNNAshley
📷 an artist’s illustration of Mimas in orbit around Saturn. The small moon resembles Star Wars’ Death Star, thanks to a massive crater. Credit: @animea_fred
— Daniel Pomarède (@DanielPomarède) February 8, 2024
It was discovered in 1789 by the English astronomer William Herschel as a tiny dot near Saturn and was first imaged in 1980. Craters cover the surface of ‘Mima’ and make the moon look like the ‘Death Star’ from the ‘Star Wars’ movies.
The findings make ‘Mima’ an interesting site for exploring the conditions that could lead to the formation of life, since the first living organisms on Earth appeared in the primordial seas of our planet billions of years ago.
The research team determined the origin and age of Mima’s ocean by studying how the moon, about 400 kilometers (249 miles) in diameter, responded to the gravitational forces exerted on it by Saturn.
“The internal heating must come from the tides that Saturn raises in Mima,” Lainey said. “These tidal effects have caused friction inside the satellite, providing heat.”
The team suspects that the ocean lies beneath the moon’s icy shell. Craters all over ‘Mima’ act as… ‘witness wrinkles’, suggesting that its surface isn’t all that new. The ocean is still evolving, so Mimas may provide a unique window into the processes behind how subsurface oceans have formed on other icy moons, the researchers said.
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