Researchers have simply revealed that Mimas, one among Saturn’s smallest moons, has an ocean of liquid water beneath its complete floor. What actually makes waves, nevertheless, is how younger the physique of water is: solely 5 to fifteen million years outdated.
The Mimas subsurface ocean was revealed after an evaluation of information from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Cassini was launched in October 1997 to review Saturn, together with its rings and spectacular assortment of 146 moons. It remained within the Saturn system for 13 years, offering a sequence of placing photographs and priceless scientific knowledge. In 2017, it ended its mission in spectacular vogue by plunging into Saturn’s ambiance and turning itself right into a screaming fireball.
Utilizing a few of Cassini’s knowledge, astronomers Nick Cooper of Queen Mary College of London, Valéry Lainey of the Observatoire de Paris-PSL and their colleagues not solely found the key international ocean that lies beneath Mimas’ crater-filled floor, however additionally they found that it is just 5-15 million years outdated. This makes it a relative newcomer to our photo voltaic system in cosmic phrases.
They got here to their conclusion primarily based on an orbital anomaly found within the Cassini knowledge and say the ocean’s younger age was inferred as a result of it has not but had an impression on the moon’s icy floor.
“Mimas is a small moon, solely about 400 kilometers in dimension [249 miles] in diameter, and its closely cratered floor gave no trace of the hidden ocean beneath,” Cooper stated. “This discovery provides Mimas to an unique membership of moons with inner oceans, together with Enceladus and Europa, however with a novel distinction: the ocean is remarkably younger, estimated to be solely 5 to fifteen million years outdated.”
The relative youth of the Mimas Ocean makes the moon a superb candidate for additional analysis to realize details about the origins of life in our photo voltaic system, the staff says.
“The existence of a not too long ago fashioned liquid water ocean makes Mimas a superb candidate for analysis for researchers investigating the origins of life,” Cooper stated.
Whereas there aren’t any fast plans to return to the Saturn system, NASA says it should use classes discovered from the Cassini mission to tell the technique of its Europa Clipper mission, which is able to launch later this yr. to assist nourish. Throughout that mission, a spacecraft will make 49 dives round Jupiter’s moon Europa to take a look at the attainable habitability of its personal ocean beneath the ice.
The invention of the Mimas ocean was detailed in an article printed within the journal Nature.
You possibly can study extra about Mimas within the subsequent video.
Supply: Queen Mary College of London