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Astronomers have recently discovered that Mimas, one of Saturn's moons, may be host to a global ocean beneath its icy surface. This hidden body of liquid water is believed to be relatively young, forming only five to fifteen million years ago. The discovery of an ocean on Mimas suggests that other seemingly barren moons could also be hiding oceans, increasing the chances of finding life beyond Earth.
"If Mimas hides a global ocean, this means that liquid water could lie almost anywhere," study co-author Valéry Lainey, an astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris, told CNN.
For years, Mimas appeared to have nothing more than a thick crust of water ice on its surface. However, data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which studied Saturn and its moons for over a decade, revealed subtle changes in Mimas' gravitational interactions with Saturn. This led astronomers to believe that there is a subsurface liquid ocean trapped beneath a frozen shell on Mimas, between 12 to 19 miles thick. The discovery of a hidden ocean on Mimas could inspire the search for other hidden oceans on moons within our solar system and beyond.
The only explanation, they argue, is a subsurface liquid ocean, trapped beneath a frozen shell between 12 to 19 miles thick.