Could Saturn’s “Death Star” moon show some signs of life? A new theory has been proposed about the Death Star moon in the scientific journal Science about one of Saturn’s moons. Based a new model of the Death Star moon, it could be showing signs of a possible life-sustaining ocean under an icy crust.
The team of researchers, led by planetary scientist Radwan Tajeddine from Cornell University, used the data and images collected by NASA‘s Cassini spacecraft to develop a 3-D model of the Death Star moon and its rotation, and learned that the moon had more of a wobble to it than what was expected. “The amount of wobble we measured is double what was predicted”, said Tajeddine.
Two possible theories have been presented to explain these findings. The first is that laying beneath the moon’s icy surface is a liquid ocean which is giving Saturn’s Death Star moon its wobble. While this seems like the most likely explanation, some are skeptical because there does not appear to be any geological indications on the surface of Saturn’s moon to support this particular hypothesis. However, depending upon just how thick the ice layer of the Death Star moon is, it is still possible that we would not be able to to see any indications on the surface at this point.
Given the recent discovery of life brimming a half of a mile under the frozen surface of the Antarctic on our own planet, the possible existence of an ocean beneath the frozen surface of the Death Star moon raises some exciting possibilities for the existence of life outside of our own planet.
The second possible explanation for the wobble of Saturn’s Death Star moon is that, for some unknown reason, the core of the moon was frozen somewhat rapidly into a cone-like shape, throwing off the otherwise spherical shape of the Death Star moon. The problem with this hypothesis, however, is that Saturn’s moon formed over 4 million years ago, and after that much time the general laws of physics tells us that the core should have developed into a roughly spherical shape by now. Either way, it is clear that, as Tajeddine stated, “this cratered little moon may be more complex than we thought.”
Saturn, as well as Jupiter, has other watery moons including Saturn’s Titan, and Enceladus, and Jupiter’s Europa. It is believed that the constant push and pull of the gravity of Saturn during the Death Star moon’s elliptical orbit generates tidal energy that could provide enough heat for a flowing sub-surface ocean similar to what scientists believe may be found under the icy surface of Europa.
Saturn’s Death Star moon, called Mimas, got its nickname because it is a bit of a dead ringer to the Death Star space station used in the Star Wars series that was used to destroy Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan. How ironic that the Death Star moon, named for something so destructive, could offer new clues for extra-terrestrial life. More research is needed in order to make any solid conclusions about what is lying beneath the surface of the Death Star moon but the new data is certainly offering some exciting new possibilities.