‘It’s Strange Worlds That Can Be Rich in Organic Matter’: Why Send and Do a Probe to Uranus’ Moons Before 2034?


14 before 2021 12:30 GMT

The gas giant’s five largest natural satellites are distinguished by remarkable relief, and some of them may have an underground ocean and tectonic activity. 1986 was the last time they were photographed from a relatively short distance.

The natural satellites of Uranus, which have not yet been studied in detail and from a short distance, deserve more attention, He said This Thursday to Forbes to astronomer Richard Cartwright, one of the authors of a recent mission proposal, published en la revista Journal of Planetary Science.

In total, it is known 27 The moons orbit the seventh planet in the solar system, which was first photographed in 1986 by NASA’s Voyager 2 probe. Despite the huge distance that separates us from this planet Almost 20 times greater than that which separates the earth from the sun, the five largest –Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon– “It has dark surfaces It can be rich in organic matter‘, highlights the world.

“From previous space probe missions, we have good data on rich organic matter in other parts of the solar system, but the nature of the organic matter on Uranus’ moons.” It is not well understood at allCartwright notes.

Images captured by Voyager 2 cover only one side of the satellite. Nevertheless, she shows great relief. Thus, in Miranda and Ariel there is evidence of a subterranean ocean And in Umbriel they see Big pits with shiny floor. Finally, Titania and Oberon show signs of a Tectonic activity and cold volcanoes.

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“The glimpses we’ve been getting from the southern hemispheres of the large moons of Uranus with Voyager 2 are quite remarkable, particularly the moons Ariel and Miranda. strange worlds And their study has the potential to provide a new perspective on how geological processes work on icy moons,” says the astronomer.

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For the instruments needed to observe the moons, Cartwright thinks the probe should include a magnetometer, infrared and visible cameras, and a spectrometer. He can study not only the satellites themselves, but also the rings of Uranus.

Video: NASA recreates Jupiter's moon that could harbor days before a space probe's closest approach in 21 years

However, the question is of time: to take advantage of the rare alignment of Neptune, Uranus and Jupiter, which would greatly facilitate flight, the probe must be launched. Between 2030 and 2034. In this case, you will complete the journey, which is about 2,900 million kilometers, in 11 years. This means that the device must be designed and built in a maximum of 13 years.

“Uranus is very far away, between 2.6 and 3.2 billion kilometers from Earth, depending on where you are. […] Designing a spacecraft and kit to travel to the Uranus system is certainly feasible, but The great distance presents challenges This must be addressed by any mission aimed at exploring the moons of Uranus,” says Cartwright, while NASA waits to overcome obstacles.

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Lovell Loxley

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