July 25, 2024


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Scientists say that Saturn's “Death Star” moon contains a hidden ocean beneath its surface

Scientists say that Saturn's “Death Star” moon contains a hidden ocean beneath its surface

French researchers cited observations made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Scientists have discovered a newly formed “force” under one of Saturn's most famous moons.

Saturn's moon Mimas resembles the Imperial Death Star station in the “Star Wars” movies due to its icy gray crust and large crater on its surface — but its famous resemblance isn't what researchers are talking about.

French astronomer Valery Liny and a team of researchers from the Paris Observatory announced the discovery of the newly formed Mimas Ocean, a discovery that could change the way scientists determine ocean moons as well as their habitability conditions.

It was research Published in Nature Wednesday.

This 250-mile-wide celestial body joins Saturn's other moons, Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede, in the growing list of moons known to have subterranean oceans.

Mimas' neighboring moon, Enceladus, has ice cracks on its surface and has been observed to spout geysers of water, indicating the presence of a body of water beneath the surface. According to NASA.

However, Mimas's thick, icy exterior never indicated an ocean. Researchers suggest this is because the Mimas Ocean lies 12 to 18 miles (20 to 30 kilometers) beneath the moon's 15-mile-thick frozen crust.

“Mimas would be the most likely place to look for the presence of a global ocean,” the researchers wrote. However, after a “detailed analysis of Mimas' orbital motion” they found that the moon's ocean “is likely to be less than 25 million years old and still evolving.”

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The researchers from the Observatoire de Paris based their findings on observations made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which analyzed Saturn's more than 140 moons for more than a decade before 2017, when it collided with the ringed planet.

“The key discovery here is the discovery of habitability conditions on a body in the solar system that we would never expect to have liquid water,” Valery Lainey said. Space.com website. “It's really amazing.”

Their findings in the hidden vicinity of Mimas were praised by their fellow researchers as “inspiring”, although previous hypothesis surrounding Mimas' unique orbit was noted.

“The idea that relatively young icy moons could harbor young oceans is inspiring,” Mateja Cook of the SETI Institute and Alyssa Rose Roden of the Southwest Research Institute said in an editorial published in the journal SETI. Nature news and views Wednesday.

The researchers note that previous understanding of Mimas' orbit came from what was thought to be a “very elongated core,” however, the inner ocean hypothesis is “quite plausible.”

“This can be explained either by the Moon having an extremely elongated rocky core, which would enhance the difference between the moments of inertia, or by an inner circumference, allowing its outer shell to oscillate independently of its core,” Chock and Roden wrote. .

Although colloquially referred to as the Death Star's moon after its “Star Wars” fame, Mimas was discovered in 1789 by astronomer William Herschel. The name Mimas descends from a giant in Greek mythology.