There is a growing list of moons within our solar system, which could indeed harbor life.
Although these speculations need firm backing, they do present notable points toward the idea. Among these magnificent moons, there is one which really grabs our attention – our solar system’s “Death Star” moon, Mimas.
Mimas is one of the moons of Saturn, first observed by NASA’s Cassini mission. This moon has been playfully nicknamed the Death Star because of its uncanny resemblance to Star Wars’ dark-side weapon of choice. This moon is 250 miles in diameter and sways gently as it orbits its “mother”, Saturn. Does Mimas hold secrets that might interest us?
Mimas wobbles, and because of this strange orbit, we are curious to find out what “ails” the heavenly body. Mimas is covered in a geologically dead surface and made from huge amounts of ice as well. Could it possibly be cradling global amounts of water underneath, up to 19 miles below the surface to be exact?
There are two theories of why Mimas wobbles in orbit. One theory says that Mimas’ core is shaped like a football, which could indeed create an eccentric orbit. Unfortunately, this theory doesn’t seem viable. In fact, researchers suggest that if Mimas’ core is formed in an oblong shape, then the crust would reflect this shape as well. Apparently, the idea doesn’t hold water, but maybe Mimas does.
The most popular and more likely theory as to why Mimas has such an eccentric orbit is because there is water underneath the surface. It is believed that Mimas has huge bodies of water about 20 miles past the visible geological structure of the surface.
How this water got there is even more interesting since there is no obvious sign of heat surrounding the Death Star moon. In order to have water, there must be an energy source to melt the inner ice formations.
There are ways to melt the ice on Mimas. One way that scientists discovered was pertaining to the gravitational pull of the moon by Saturn. Simply said: when Mimas is closer to Saturn, the pull is stronger and when farther away, much weaker. This, in itself could cause the strange orbital movements that appear as wobbles.
Another interesting bit of information, gathered from the research of Tajeddine of Cornell University connects the gravitational pull with huge bodies of water beneath Mimas’ surface.
The way this works is the eccentric orbit of Mimas creates friction beneath the solid surface, heats up the ice and creates water, water….everywhere! As long as the orbit continues to be wonky, the water remains liquid and makes the moon wobble even more. This is why the planet is noticeably different.
When Mimas was formed, the decay of radioactive materials could have released enough energy to melt the first ice sheets, creating the water. Over time, other elements were added to the water, and the strange orbit keeps the water brewed to perfection – always slightly heated and wooed around the planet Saturn.
Another scientist, Attilio Rivoldini from the Royal Observatory in Belgium, backed up this theory by saying that together, all the conditions and elements have created a successful subsurface ocean, which may or may not harbor life as of now. The list shall grow!
Featured image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
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