The origin and evolution of a differentiated Mimas

M. Neveu, A. R. Rhoden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In stark contrast with its neighbor moon Enceladus, Mimas is surprisingly geologically quiet, despite an eccentric orbit and distance to Saturn prone to levels of tidal dissipation 30 times higher. While Mimas’ lack of geological activity could be due to a stiff, frigid interior, libration data acquired using the Cassini spacecraft suggest that its interior is not homogeneous. Here, we present one-dimensional models of the thermal, structural, and orbital evolution of Mimas under two accretion scenarios: primordial, undifferentiated formation in the Saturnian sub-nebula, and late, layered formation from a debris ring created by the disruption of one or more previous moons. We find it difficult to reproduce a differentiated, eccentric Mimas under a primordial accretion scenario: either Mimas never differentiates, or the internal warming that leads to differentiation increases tidal dissipation, yielding runaway heating that produces a persistent ocean, thereby circularizing Mimas’ orbit. Only if Mimas accretes very early (so that the decay of short-lived radionuclides initiates differentiation) but its rheology is not highly dissipative (in order to stop runaway tidal heating even if the eccentricity is not negligible) can the simulations match the observational constraints. Alternatively, a late, layered accretion scenario yields a present-day Mimas that matches observational constraints, independently of the magnitude of tidal dissipation. Consistent with previous findings, these models do not produce an ocean on Enceladus unless its orbital eccentricity is higher than today's value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Interiors
  • Satellites, formation
  • Saturn, satellites
  • Tides, solid body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The origin and evolution of a differentiated Mimas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this