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Beyond Earthly Skies

Tantalizing Possibility of a Hidden Ocean on Mimas

28 Oct 2014, 22:00 UTC
Tantalizing Possibility of a Hidden Ocean on Mimas
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Mimas is the smallest and innermost member of Saturn’s mid-sized icy moons, a group which includes Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea and Iapetus. With a diameter of 396 km, Mimas is also one of the smallest objects known in the Solar System whose self-gravitation is sufficiently strong to keep it rounded in shape. Mimas whizzes around Saturn about once every 23 hours. As it goes around Saturn, Mimas wobbles back and forth. This type of motion is called libration.By carefully analysing images of Mimas taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft using a technique known as stereophotogrammetry, one particular component of Mimas’ libration was found to have an amplitude roughly twice as large as predicted. Since this component of libration depends on the interior structure of Mimas, its large value suggests that Mimas has a ‘weird’ interior. A few interior models of Mimas have been proposed to explain the large libration.An image of Saturn’s moon Mimas taken by the Cassini spacecraft on 13 February 2010. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.The 140 km wide Herschel impact crater on Mimas makes it resemble the Death Star from the Star Wars franchise. One interior model suggests the presence of a large mass buried beneath the Herschel impact ...

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