Astronomers study a lot of objects in space, but when it comes to ice giants like Uranus, scientists run into trouble. A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets provides a new look at Uranus’ largest moons.
Scientists have reviewed data taken by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft in the 1980s, as well as data from other space missions and ground-based observations. Their goal was to find out if oceans exist on the largest moons of Uranus.
The results of the study showed that four of the five largest moons of Uranus, including Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon, likely contain an ocean layer between the core and the ice crust. This layer of the ocean may contain enough heat to provide potential habitability. Miranda, the fifth largest moon, may also have an ocean, but has lost heat and is now completely frozen over.
One of the key findings of the study is that the oceans on Uranus’ largest moons may contain chlorides and ammonia, which acts as an antifreeze, in abundance. Salts, which may also be present in the water, will be another source of antifreeze, supporting the existence of inland oceans.
It is interesting to note that the interiors of the moons of Uranus are sufficiently insulated to hold the internal heat necessary for the existence of the oceans. The mantles of Titania and Oberon are capable of emitting hot fluids, which likely makes the oceans warm enough for potential habitability.
This is an important discovery for astronomy, as it means that the inland oceans on the largest moons of Uranus may have suitable conditions for life. In the future, scientists may use these findings to search for life on other large planetary moons in the solar system.
However, more research is needed to confirm the presence of life in these oceans. For example, astronomers can examine the composition of Uranus’ gaseous shell to determine if there are signs of life. It is also possible to send a probe to one of Uranus’ moons to collect water samples and analyze them for organic compounds.