Deep ocean found on one of Saturn’s main moons – Teach me about science

Deep ocean found on one of Saturn’s main moons – Teach me about science
Deep ocean found on one of Saturn’s main moons – Teach me about science
Image credits: Freepik

It was in the year 1789, on September 17, when the astronomer William Herschel discovered one of the innermost satellites of the planet Saturn: Mimas. At that time, the name given to this moon was Saturn I. Herschel recorded his discovery in this way: “The enormous light of my 40-foot telescope was so useful that I observed the seventh satellite on the 17th of September, 1789, and it was then located in the great west.”

Mimas is a low-density icy body, probably made up mostly of water ice with a small concentration of denser materials. It has a diameter of 397 km and its surface has several craters, including the Herschel Crater, which has a diameter of 139 km. The impact that created this crater was so violent that it caused fractures on the opposite side of Mimas.

And although it was believed to be one of the last options where an ocean could be found, due to its rough and icy surface that indicated that it was a body with a completely solid core, it seems that this was an erroneous conclusion.

According to a study recently published in the journal Nature, a detailed analysis of Mimas’ orbital motion, data from which were obtained from the Cassini spacecraft, revealed that beneath the completely cratered ice layer there is a global ocean at a depth of 20 to 30 kilometers. This ocean is probably 25 million years old and is still evolving.

It is not the only satellite that has water, apparently, Saturn’s Enceladus and Titan, Jupiter’s Ganymede and Europa also have an ocean of liquid water that is found beneath an icy crust and are located beyond the habitable zone.

Image credits: Bigstock

About 10 years ago, scientists noticed that something strange was happening inside Mimas. The anomalies detected in the rotation of this celestial body, which showed a slight wobble, led researchers to believe that there was still something to discover inside this moon of Saturn. And after formulating the hypothesis, scientists studied the detected anomalies, using data obtained by the Cassini space probe, which has been studying this area of ​​space for 13 years.

To reach a conclusion, the researchers created models that simulated the interior of Mimas and found out what was causing this wobbling, although they soon realized that the satellite’s core could not explain such movements. And everything that could occur inside this moon was ruled out, so they concluded that it was evident that there was an ocean beneath the surface, but a new question arose among this clarification, since the other satellites that have internal oceans show signs of water making its way through their surface, either by means of geysers or other types of geological activity, which does not happen on Mimas.

What scientists have concluded is that the ocean must be relatively new, as it has not yet affected the surface. If this is the case, time will take its toll, causing the ocean to begin to fracture the surface of Mimas due to the water present within the satellite.

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