After hearing about Enceladus and Europa, the natural satellites that could harbor an ocean within them keep increasing. Mimas it is one of Saturn’s moons, and in addition to bearing a strong resemblance to the Death Star from Star Wars, a new study has suggested the presence of water under the frozen surface.
Mimas is one of the smallest satellites in the Solar System and is found in the innermost part of Saturn’s orbit. The hypothesis of a subterranean ocean was first advanced in 2014, following delle measurements made by Cassini probe.
According to Dr Alyssa Rhoden, lead author of the study, “if Mimas had an ocean it would represent one new class of small ocean worlds ‘stealth’with a surface that shows no signs of water inside.”
The model that would allow such an eventuality is based on the effects of tidal forces that would heat the interior of the satellite, as is the case with other icy moons. However, this model must meet two conditions: tidal forces must be strong enough to heat the interior to keep the ocean liquid, but not so strong that they fracture the surface.
After doing the math, the researchers found that it’s actually possible for a celestial body like Mimas to have a liquid ocean under a solid surface between 24 and 31 kilometers thick. This is an unexpected result, which can be easily confirmed once the satellite is reached with a space probe busy making the right measurements.
In the next few years we will see many missions to study icy satellites and their subterranean oceans that could host life. One of them will be JUICEen route to the icy moons of Jupiter.