Mimas, one of Saturn's smallest moons, hides a vast ocean beneath its icy, cratered surface, suggests a study published today in the scientific journal Nature.
According to the work, coordinated by the Paris Observatory in France, the ocean is between five and 15 million years old, making Mimas a prime target for studying the origins of life in the solar system (liquid water is an essential element for life). as we know it).
The “youthful” age of this underground ocean was estimated by analyzing Mimas' tidal interactions with Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system after Jupiter.
By analyzing subtle changes in the Moon's orbit and rotation, the study's authors were able to deduce the existence of an inner ocean and estimate its size and depth.
The Mimas Ocean, which scientists believe fills half the volume of the Moon, is about 400 kilometers in diameter, and is located at a depth of 20 to 30 kilometers under the icy crust.
Due to Mimas' small size – Jupiter's diameter is about 140,000 km – the ocean on this moon of Saturn is equivalent to only 1.2% to 1.4% of Earth's oceans.
In their work, the researchers analyzed data from the US space probe Cassini, which orbited Saturn and its moons for more than 10 years.
Discovered by British astronomer William Herschel in 1789, Mimas is named after a giant from Greek mythology and completes the family of rare moons in the solar system that contain liquid water beneath their icy surface – Europa, Ganymede (the moons of Jupiter), Enceladus and Titan. (Saturn's moons).
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