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Researchers at the CNRS analyse Mimas, a moon of Saturn

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One of the moons that revolve around Saturn has been defined as a “space snowplow.” We speak of Mimas, a natural satellite of Saturn with a diameter of 396 miles discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. The results of two studies supported by the International Space Science Institute and the CNES, the French space agency clarify in particular some features of the Cassini division, a broad band that divides the two main groups of Saturn’s rings. In this area of ​​the rings, there is a considerably smaller quantity of particles than in the other regions of the rings and it is for this reason that it is almost completely obscured by the Earth.

According to the researchers of the CNRS, of the Paris-PSL observatory and the University of Franche-Comté, Mimas plays a special role with regard to the ice particles that form the rings. This Moon may have come close to Saturn only in the “recent” past, something that would have widened the Cassini division making it take on the appearance it has today, namely that of a circular area, concentric to the others, substantially empty with a width of 4500 miles.

This is because the particles that orbit around Saturn do it twice as fast as Mimas. This phenomenon, which is also known as orbital resonance, drives the ice particles by making them change direction. Using computerized simulations, the researchers calculated that Mimas must have migrated inland for over 9000 miles in a few million years to open this empty area 4500 miles wide.

Today, however, Mimas is beginning to migrate to the outside and that is why the same scientists tread that the Cassini division, in the space of about forty million years, can close again and substantially disappear.

Among other things, the same fact that Mimas is in all these millions of years approached Saturn instead of moving away (usually natural satellites tend to move away from the planet to which they are attracted) would also explain why, in one of the researchers’ hypotheses, on Enceladus there can exist an underground ocean with liquid water: having to lose energy precisely because it is approaching Saturn, Mimas would be “sharing” this energy lost with Enceladus itself in the form of heat.

Bella Allen

I am based in Alabama and have worked as a journalist for most of my professional life, having been an editor for Alabama Magazine (alabama-magazine.com) and Alabama Press Association (alabamapress.org). I am a volunteer contributor for Bitobit News and assist with editing and proofreading as well as submitting content from time to time.

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