Evidence of a hidden OCEAN in our solar system has been discovered – it could be a ‘stealth’ new world

Evidence that could point to an inner ocean in Saturn’s innermost moon has been discovered by scientists.

Experts from the Southwest Research Institute were studying the small moon called Mimas for different reasons when they spotted signs of an inner ocean.

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Mimas (left) is a small moon orbiting Saturn, Enceladus (right) is a much larger Saturn moon which is also believed to have an ocean insideCredit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute
An illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global ocean of liquid water between its rocky core and icy crust

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An illustration of the interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus showing a global ocean of liquid water between its rocky core and icy crustCredit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dr Alyssa Rhoden of SwRI said: “If Mimas has an ocean, it represents a new class of small ‘stealth’ ocean worlds with surfaces that don’t betray the existence of the ocean.”

Saturn is believed to have 82 moons, but some are more remarkable than others.

There is a big moon called Enceladus this has attracted attention recently because methane has been detected there.

The methane levels matched those of the microbes, which could either be a sign of life on Enceladus or just evidence of a chemical process we don’t yet understand.

Enceladus is also believed to have an internal ocean.

Beneath the icy surface of the moon, there is believed to be a salty subterranean ocean.

This water bursts through the icy crust sometimes in giant plumes.

NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency sent a space probe called Cassini to dive through these plumes.

This is how large quantities of methane were detected as well as other molecules such as carbon dioxide.

It is believed that there are many more worlds with oceans under their rock layers in our solar system.

This includes Jupiter’s moon Europa.

They are called the Inner Water Ocean Worlds (IWOW).

However, Saturn’s mini moon Mimas was not considered one of them and was mostly more famous for resembling Star Wars’ Death Star.

Rhoden explained: “Because the surface of Mimas is heavily cratered, we thought it was just a frozen block of ice.

“IWOWs, like Enceladus and Europa, tend to be fractured and show other signs of geologic activity.

“It turns out that the surface of Mimas was fooling us, and our new understanding has greatly expanded the definition of a potentially habitable world in our solar system and beyond.”

Researchers believe ‘tidal warming’ in the inner ocean is keeping it from freezing but not melting the thick shell of ice.

Learning more about the cold inner ocean worlds could help us find a habitable ocean moon one day.

Rhoden concluded: “Assessing Mimas’ status as an oceanic moon would allow comparisons of patterns of its formation and evolution.

“This would help us better understand Saturn’s mid-sized rings and moons as well as the prevalence of potentially habitable oceanic moons, especially Uranus. Mimas is a compelling target for continued investigation.”

An article on the research was published in the Diary of Icarus.

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