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Are secret oceans hiding on the moons of Uranus?
By Chelsea Gohd
Where might subsurface oceans lie in our solar system beyond moons like Europa and Enceladus?
Icy worlds speckle our solar system — from Jupiter’s moon Europa to Saturn’s moon Enceladus, scientists have been investigating these alien worlds, discovering subsurface oceans hidden under their icy crusts. Now, researchers have turned their gaze to the moons orbiting Uranus, searching for secret oceans.
In a new study not yet published, presented at the Dec. 15 AGU’s Fall Meeting 2020, researchers led by Benjamin Weiss, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have developed a method for future missions to confirm the existence of subsurface oceans on worlds like the moons of Uranus. With this work, the team also hopes to further our understanding and knowledge of potentially habitable worlds.
“The big question here is, Where are habitable environments in the solar system?” Weiss said in a statement. Discovering subsurface oceans on Europa and Enceladus makes “a lot of us wonder whether there are many moons out there that, although they’re small, may still be warm.”
Uranus has 27 moons total, but the planet has five especially large moons — Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel and Miranda. When Voyager 2 swooped by the Uranus system back in 1986, it captured images that showed that these five big moons are made up of equal parts rock and ice and are heavily cratered. These images also showed physical signs of liquid water erupting through a world and freezing on its surface, called cryovolcanism.
The phenomenon could be caused by a subsurface ocean similar to what we see on Enceladus, which expels plumes from its ocean out into space.
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER SUPERHIGHWAY NETWORK WHICH CAN BE USED TO TRAVEL THROUGH THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Scientists have now discovered a superhigh network to travel through the Solar System much faster than was earlier thought possible. As per study authors, such routes can drive comets and asteroids near Jupiter to Neptune in under a decade and to 100 astronomical units in less than a century. Study authors say that they could be used to send spacecraft to the extreme ends of the planetary system relatively fast and also monitor near-Earth objects.
As per a statement by UC San Diego News Centre, in a paper, published on 25 November, researchers observed dynamical structure of these routes, forming connected series of arches inside space manifolds that range all the way from Uranus and beyond.
The newly discovered “celestial autobahn,” or celestial highway acts over several decades unlike the millions of years that usually characterize Solar System dynamic
According to researchers, the most star arch structures are linked to Jupiter and its gravitational force. The structures were resolved by gathering numerical data about millions of orbits in the Solar System and computing how they fit within already-known space manifolds.
While the results need to be further studied, researchers say both determine how they can be used by spacecraft and how such manifolds behave in the vicinity of Earth, controlling asteroid and meteorite encounters.
Let’s Search for Alien Probes, Not Just Alien Signals
While developing our own radio and laser communication over the past seven decades, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) focused on radio or laser signals from outer space—two kinds of electromagnetic “messenger” that astronomers use to study the cosmos.
Over the same period, we have been also launching probes, like Voyager 1 and 2, Pioneer 10 and 11 and the New Horizons spacecraft, towards interstellar space. These could eventually reach alien civilizations, passively announcing our existence.
This sort of exploration obviously could work both ways. Thanks to data collected by the Kepler space telescope, we now know that about half of all sunlike stars host a rocky Earth-size planet in their habitable zone. Within this zone, the planet’s surface temperature can support liquid water and the chemistry of life.
Oumuamua showed no carbon-based molecules along its trail, nor jitter or change in its spin period—as expected from cometary jets. The excess force could be explained if `Oumuamua was pushed by the pressure of sunlight; that is, if it is an artificially-made lightsail—a thin relic of the promising technology for space exploration that was proposed as early as 1924 by Friedrich Zander and is currently being developed by our civilization. This possibility would imply that `Oumuamua could be a message in a bottle.
Nevertheless, its discovery lends credibility to the notion that thin artificial objects with a large surface-to-mass ratio can be distinguished from natural objects based on their excess push away from the sun without a cometary tail. There is no way that `Oumuamua could have originated from our planet based on its high local speed, its large size and the inclination of its trajectory.
Perseverance Arrives at Mars: Feb. 18, 2021 (Mission Trailer)
•57 Days and counting.
•Mission Name: Mars 2020
•Rover Name: Perseverance
•Main Job: Seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.
•Launch: July 30, 2020
•Landing: Feb. 18, 2021
•Landing Site: Jezero Crater, Mars
•Tech Demo: The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration, hitching a ride on the Perseverance rover.
•Explore a geologically diverse landing site
•Assess ancient habitability
•Seek signs of ancient life, particularly in special
•rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
•Gather rock and soil samples that could be
•returned to Earth by a future NASA mission
•Demonstrate technology for future robotic and
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