Saturn's Moon Mimas May Possess An Underground Ocean Capable of Hosting Alien Life
It may look like the Death Star from Star Wars, but Saturn's moon, Mimas, could be a suitable candidate for finding extraterrestrial life if the data from a new research paper is to be believed. Using images taken by the Cassini spacecraft, researchers were able to determine the moon's orbital 'wobble', which in turn gave them an idea of what Mimas's interior is made up of.
"The data suggest that something is not right, so to speak, inside Mimas," said the paper's lead author Radwan Tajeddine. "The amount of wobble we measured is double what was predicted."
Tajeddine et al. discovered that the moon wobbles by around 6km over time, meaning that as it orbits Saturn, different areas of the satellite's terrain would be visible from the planet's surface. Our own moon has a similar wobbling motion, but the wobble exhibited by Mimas is far more severe. The researcher's findings lead them to believe that one of two possibilities exist for the make-up of Mimas's core: Either the moon's core is shaped like something akin to a football, or underneath the pockmarked surface lies a vast ocean of liquid water.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)
Tajeddine and his team have deduced that, if the moon possesses a liquid ocean, it lies approximately 20 miles below the surface. Similarly, if liquid water is present, it would suggest that there is some form of heat source which can keep it water warm enough to retain its liquid state as Mimas is too small to retain any form of heat. Such a heat source is likely come in the form of a tidal motion caused by Mimas's elongated orbit around Saturn.
If water is present on Mimas, the moon will join a host of other satellites in our solar system commonly known as water worlds. The likes of Jupiter's moon, Europa, and Saturn's moon Enceladus all possess significant bodies of water under their frozen surfaces. If Mimas is proven to also possess an underwater ocean, it may lead to the notion that such a feature is the norm when it comes to moons in our solar system.