Scientists at the Royal Observatory of Belgium have new insight into Dione, on of Saturn’s moons. Information from the Cassini spacecraft reveals that there might be a subsurface ocean on Dione. This would make it Saturn’s third moon which hosts such an ocean.
The data from NASA’s Cassini suggest that Dione might share some features with other two of Saturn’s moons, namely Enceladus and Titan. They don’t only display icy surfaces, but also subsurface oceans under the crust. However, all the signs seem to indicate that the ocean on Dione is more special than the others, as it might be buried much deeper. Scientists estimate that it lies about one hundred kilometers deep in Dione’s inner layers.
Dione was analyzed before, but researchers didn’t consider the possibility of a subsurface ocean as no evidence suggested so. The data provided by Cassini and a new model of the moon led researchers to the new conclusion.
Oceans being discovered in space always give scientists hope that they may sustain life. The existence of water on planets and celestial bodies is the best indicator that there might be aliens forms of life. However, as far as Dione is concerned, researchers lack information in order to state such a thing. For doing that, more in-depth studies are required.
Researchers believe that Dione’s subsurface ocean could have formed for a long period. They also estimate that it might be as old as the moon itself.
Scientists took another close look at the phenomenon on Enceladus as well. At first, the moon was believed to hide a subsurface ocean deep inside its center. However, there were also geysers which drew the attention of researchers. Now they explain the existence of geysers by relating them to the ocean being located much closer to the crust. They believe that Enceladus’s ocean lies just a few miles below its surface.
The Cassini mission proves itself to be quite useful. It didn’t only help researchers with their recent discovery of the subsurface ocean on Dione, but with that of Saturn’s other moons too. If compared to Enceladus and Titan, Dione is also bigger.
Apart from Saturn’s moons, water was also found in two of Jupiter’s moons, namely Ganymede, and recently proved Europa. Dwarf planet Pluto also hosts water.
Attilio Rivoldini is one of the authors of the new study on Dione. It was published in the Geophysical Research Letters.
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