Why a hundred scientists are calling for a space mission to the moons of Uranus?


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Uranus is a strange planet: your axis of rotation is inclined at an angle to almost 90 degrees from the plane of its orbit, so that one of its poles always look to the Sun and the other never sees, or a single beam. It also has a rare magnetosphere asymmetric , lying as its axis of rotation, and significantly diverted from the center of the planet. And there is nothing more and nothing less than 27 moons (known) that could harbor the potential to contain life. But all this we know thanks only to the unique mission of the 80s, the Voyager, the only one that came to view in situ that world in the confines of Solar System . It is for this reason that a hundred scientists have signed a “white paper” -a paper guide – accessible through the site in prepress Arxiv.org in order to lay the foundations for the return of our ships to those territories, since, if a single project managed to gather as much information to the end of the TWENTIETH century, what we could not discover with the current technology?

After the Voyager 2 took a few iconic images in 1986, the only new data on Uranus have come from terrestrial observatories that have only been able to “scratch” the surface. It is for this reason that researchers led by Richard Cartwright Institute SETI (stands for “Search for extra terrestrial intelligence” or the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life), and Chloe B Beddingfield , companion of the SETI and scientific Ames Research Center of NASA, have signed a document to ask for a mission from 2030, in that moment the gravity of Jupiter will help the probe to reach its destination -a situation that only occurs every several decades-.

Trajectory of Voyager – NASA

And the mission not only focuses on Uranus, but also on its many moons, is unique in the Solar System. The Voyager 2 discovered 10 satellites new, although they have found more since then (currently have 27). These are rated in three groups distinct: the five moons classic , of which Titania is the largest; the nine moons irregular , whose orbits indicate that they could be captured objects from other parts of the Solar System; and 13 small inner moons or rings, , which are mainly located in the rings of Uranus.

Image that shows the ring of Uranus and some of its moons – NASA

The moons classic are probably composed of rocks and water ice , and have the potential to be worlds ocean , with oceans underground under a thick layer of ice. These oceans subsurface can cause tectonic activity or criovolcánica on the moons classics. There is some indication of this end in Miranda and Ariel , two satellites whose surfaces seem to have changed in the past relatively recent (speaking in geological terms, of course).

The present images of their surfaces have a relatively low resolution, and one of the main objectives of the proposed mission would be to take photographs of higher resolution. So we might better understand the geological features of these worlds, including their number of craters, which may provide clues about the age of the same.

in Addition, if these moons do indeed have oceans in its interior, then it would proceed to the category potentially habitable for some kind of extraterrestrial life . For example, Mab , one of the moons rings of Uranus, orbits within a ring of diffuse and dusty which could be composed by the material ejected by the moon, and the same could happen with satellites outside as Titania and Oberon, which would be coated by the powder that falls from the satellites irregular Uranus. This mission could discover the secret behind the dynamic interactions between the different moons of Uranus.

The highest resolution image available of Miranda, one of the moons most interesting of Uranus. – NASA

According to the scientists, this mission could gather in a single trip, the more information the return of man to the Moon, as collected Universe Today. “There are 27 bodies known to study in the set, along with the planet itself, its rings, and its strange mangetosfera, and maybe there are still more moons to be discovered. A single orbiter could collect data on all of them”, they said.

If eventually any administration picks up the handkerchief, the team will have little time to devise the mission, since the strength of gravity with Jupiter will have a window that will extend between 2030 and 2034. Times tight, even unique, to get to know a little more about the unknown system of Uranus.

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