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Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon may not conceal an ocean after all

Saturn's moon Mimas

Craters blemish Saturn’s moon Mimas, including a large one that makes the moon look like the Death Star in Star Wars. A lack of cracks on the moon’s surface, though, casts doubt on the presence of a subsurface ocean, new research suggests.

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An ocean of liquid water probably doesn’t lurk beneath the icy surface of Mimas, Saturn’s smallest major moon, new calculations suggest. Scientists had proposed the ocean in 2014 to help explain an odd wobble in the moon’s orbit.

Other ocean-harboring moons, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, are crisscrossed by fractures opened by strong tides that cause their oceans to bulge outward. Mimas, though freckled with craters, lacks any such cracks.

Planetary scientist Alyssa Rhoden of Arizona State University in Tempe and colleagues calculated whether Mimas’ icy shell could withstand the stress of a subsurface ocean pushing outward. Taking into account the moon’s elongated orbit, the researchers estimate that a subsurface ocean would produce tidal stresses larger than those on crack-riddled Europa. Mimas therefore probably doesn’t have an ocean, the researchers conclude February 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Planetary Science,, Astronomy

Juno spacecraft won’t go into shorter orbit around Jupiter

By Ashley Yeager 4:02pm, February 17, 2017
Juno will remain in its 53-day orbit around Jupiter due to an issue with two helium check valves, NASA reports.
Climate,, Oceans,, Earth

Antarctic sea ice shrinks to record low

By Thomas Sumner 1:14pm, February 17, 2017
The Antarctic sea ice extent has reached a new low just two years after hitting a record high.
Health

See how long Zika lasts in semen and other bodily fluids

By Meghan Rosen 5:03pm, February 14, 2017
For most men infected with Zika, traces of the virus disappear from semen 81 days after symptoms begin. In other bodily fluids, Zika RNA is typically cleared even faster.
Climate,, Animals,, Conservation

Desert songbirds increasingly at risk of dehydration

By Susan Milius 5:11pm, February 13, 2017
With no efforts to curb climate warming, hot spots in the U.S. Southwest could turn uninhabitable for some songbirds.
Earth

Dual magma plumes fueled volcanic eruptions during final days of dinosaurs

By Thomas Sumner 2:00pm, February 9, 2017
Two magma plumes fueled the Deccan volcanic eruptions around the time of the dinosaur extinction 66 million years ago.
Animals,, Biophysics,, Cells

How hydras know where to regrow their heads

By Helen Thompson 10:00am, February 9, 2017
Regenerating pond animals called hydras inherit structural patterns from their original forms, researchers find.
Genetics,, Animals,, Agriculture

CRISPR used in cows to help fight tuberculosis

By Helen Thompson 1:00pm, February 3, 2017
Chinese researchers used a CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editor to make cows more resistant to tuberculosis.
Oceans,, Climate,, Animals

Cone snails wander in circles, lose focus with boosted CO2

By Elizabeth Eaton 5:00pm, February 2, 2017
Deadly cone snails wander in circles and become less capable hunters when exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide in seawater.
Microbiology,, Health

Why salmonella doesn’t want you to poop out

By Helen Thompson 3:00pm, January 27, 2017
Salmonella bacteria fight infection-driven losses in appetite to keep hosts just healthy enough for transmission.
Physics

Construction of tiny, fluid-filled devices inspired by Legos

By Emily Conover 9:00am, January 26, 2017
Tiny devices shuttle fluid around using reconfigurable Lego-like bricks.
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