CAPE CANAVERAL - Saturn's battered moon Mimas may have a thin global ocean buried miles beneath its icy surface, raising the prospect of another "life-friendly" habitat in the solar system, scientists said on Thursday.
An underground ocean is one of two explanations for why the 400-mile (250-km) diameter moon wobbles as it orbits around Saturn, scientists using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft said. The other possibility is that Mimas has an oblong or rugby ball-shaped core. Follow-up measurements should provide more answers, the scientists said.
Either way, the findings point to a more complex and intriguing history for a moon best known for a large crater that dominates its surface, making it look like the "Death Star" from the movie "Star Wars."
"If Mimas does have an ocean, this would definitely be another interesting body in the solar system to be added to list of potential 'life-friendly' environments," Radwan Tajeddine, a research associate in Cornell University's astronomy department, wrote in an email to Reuters.