Mimas, Saturn's main moon, may be generating enough heat to sustain an ocean of water beneath its icy surface. Recent modeling of the Herschel impact crater, the most prominent feature on the moon's surface, and the lack of tectonic activity support the hypothesis that a geologically young inland ocean surrounded by a relatively thin ice shell
Researchers at the Southwestern Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio (Texas, USA) came to the following conclusions. A peculiar libration, a variation in Mimas' rotational characteristics, often indicates the existence of an internal ocean, according to scientists.
Despite these fluctuations, scientists initially considered Mimas only as an iceberg, since other oceanic worlds like Enceladus with its geysers or other Saturn moons usually show different signs of geological activity. Mimas does not have them.
Mimas' frozen surface and one enormous impact crater suggested that there might be an ocean, thus we are talking about a new class of “stealth ocean.”
When scientists studied the structure of the Herschel impact crater, they concluded that the ice shell at the time of impact would have to be at least 55 km thick. Similarly, measurements and modeling indicate that it is now less than 30 km thick.
Researchers argue that granting Mimas the status of a moon with an internal ocean will allow us to study its evolution and composition, which will help us to better understand Saturn's rings and medium-sized moons, as well as to better understand the prevalence of oceanic moons, particularly around Uranus.
On December 26, the findings of the study will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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