Old data from NASA’s Voyager 2 space probe is showing light: Apparently, four moons of Uranus could harbor inner oceans.
Pasadena – At least 27 moons orbit the planet Uranus. Until now, research has assumed that all of Uranus’ moons, except for the largest moon Titania, are too small to have an ocean inside them. But this was apparently a fallacy. A NASA research team re-evaluated data from the Voyager 2 spacecraft and came to the conclusion that four moons of Uranus could harbor water beneath their surface. According to NASA, the oceans can be tens of kilometers deep.
The “nodal study” of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a kind of “wish list” in astronomy, has prioritized a mission to the planet Uranus. That’s why planetary researchers are currently focusing on the ice giant in order to develop potential missions. The new study that In the Journal of Geophysical Research published It could shed light on how a future mission will explore the moons of Uranus. However, the work has implications beyond Uranus, says the study’s lead author, Julie Castillo-Rogues of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Uranus can have multiple moons with inner oceans
“When it comes to small bodies – planets and dwarf moons – planetary scientists have already found evidence of oceans in several unlikely locations, including the dwarf planets Ceres, Pluto and Saturn’s moon Mimas,” Castillo-Rogues explains. “So there are mechanisms at play that we don’t fully understand. This work examines what these are and how they are related to the many bodies in the solar system that may be rich in water but have limited internal heat.”
Some of the data the research team evaluated goes back several years: In the 1980s, the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by the planet Uranus—as the only spacecraft to date. Voyager has always played a role in studies of Uranus. In addition, the research group evaluated ground-based observations of the planet and its moons. Results from the many space probes that have discovered ocean worlds in the solar system have also been used. The study also included results related to Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Pluto and its moon Charon.
Uranus’ moons Oberon and Titania may have warm oceans
The Castillo-Rogez research team found that four of Uranus’ large moons are likely sufficiently insulated to retain internal heat. This is necessary to make possible liquid water under a layer of ice. The team also found a possible source of heat in the rocky mantle of the moons. They emit a hot liquid that can help keep the ocean warm. This scenario is particularly likely for the moons Oberon and Titania. According to one of them, their oceans could be so warm that life could be possible in them NASA ad.
The study also shows that chlorides and ammonia are likely to be abundant in the oceans of Uranus’ largest moons and also contribute to heat. There are still many questions about the major moons of Uranus, and Castillo-Rogues stresses that much more needs to be done: “We need to develop new models for different assumptions about the origin of the moons in order to facilitate planning for future observations.”
The results of the current study will be incorporated into the design of a future Uranus mission. For example, researchers can figure out which tools are best suited to exploring the moons or Uranus itself. The Esa space probe “Juice” is currently flying to Jupiter and its icy moons to explore the oceans beneath the ice sheets. (unpaid bill)
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