“They are strange worlds that could be rich in organic matter”: Why should we send a quest to Uranus’ moons and do it before 2034?

"Son mundos extraños que podrían ser ricos en materia orgánica": ¿Por qué habría que enviar una sonda a las lunas de Urano y hacerlo antes del 2034?

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14 before 2021 12:30 GMT

The gas giant’s five largest natural satellites have impressive relief, some of which may have underground ocean and tectonic activity. They were last photographed at a relatively short distance in 1986.

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

Overall, this is well known 27 Satellites orbiting the seventh planet in the Solar System were photographed in 1986 by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft. Despite the great distance from the planet, viz About 20 times Larger than the Earth’s separation from the Sun, the five largest –Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon– “There are dark surfaces, that is May be rich in organic matter“, The scientist points out.

“From previous space exploration missions, we have good data on biodiversity in other parts of the solar system, but the nature of the biomaterials on Uranus’ moons Not well understood at all“Cart Right Notes.

Images taken by Voyager 2 contain only one side of the moons. However, they show attractive relief. Thus, there is evidence in Miranda and Ariel Underground ocean They meet in Umbriel Large craters with shiny ground. Finally, Titania and Oberon show signs of A Tectonic activity and cryovolcanism.

“The views we get from the southern hemispheres of Uranus’ large moons using Voyager 2 are quite impressive, especially those of Ariel and Miranda. Strange worlds Their study has the potential to give a new perspective on how geological processes work on icy moons, ”says the astronomer.

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Investigation recommendation

As for the equipment needed to monitor the satellites, Cartwright believes the probe should include a magnetometer, infrared, visible spectrum cameras and a spectrometer. It can study not only moons but also Uranus rings.

Video: NASA recreates Jupiter's satellite that could sustain life days before the spacecraft's closest approach in 21 years

However, the question remains for a while: to take advantage of the rare orbits of Neptune, Uranus and Jupiter, which significantly facilitate the flight, the investigation needs to begin. Between 2030 and 2034. If so, it would complete the journey of about 2,900 million kilometers 11 years. That is, the device must be designed and manufactured within a maximum of 13 years.

“Uranus is 2.6 to 3.2 billion kilometers from Earth, depending on where you are. […] It is certainly possible to design a spacecraft and instrument suite to travel to the Uranus system, but The big distance presents challenges Any mission aimed at exploring Uranus’ moons must address it, “said Cartwright as he waited for NASA to overcome the obstacles.

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