Researchers believe that Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon, the five largest moons of Uranus, would be prime candidates for research due to their similarities to Europa and Enceladus, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
The moon named Europa has long been considered a possible candidate for extraterrestrial life in our own solar system, but breaking through the thick crust of ice on its surface presents a challenge for scientists hoping to reach the ocean and study it better. .
These moons show evidence of cryovolcanism, which occurs when liquid and vapor-like material that might be trapped beneath the surface escapes and freezes upon striking the low temperatures of space.
When studying the images sent from the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1986, the moons show fresh material without craters, ridges, valleys and folds, all of which could originate in subterranean oceans.
“The big question here is: Where are the habitable environments in the solar system?” said Benjamin Weiss, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Europa and Enceladus “make many of us wonder if there are many moons out there that, while small, may still be hot.”
The scientists calculated the strength of Uranus’ magnetic field and how it would affect any ocean below the surface of its moons, the same technique that NASA used to confirm the presence of Europa’s ocean and also that of one of Jupiter’s other moons. , Callisto.
To determine whether a future spacecraft could definitively discover a subsurface ocean on one of these worlds, the researchers for this work calculated how strongly Uranus’s magnetic field would induce a moon’s ocean.
An induced magnetic field works like this: when a moon orbits a planet, that planet’s magnetic field “pulls” on the moon and keeps it in orbit. This pull of the magnetic field generates an electric current that can create its own magnetic field, called an induced magnetic field. This induced field is believed to be created by a layer of some kind of electrically conductive fluid, such as an underground ocean.
If the moons could detect Uranus’ magnetic field, and also experience differences in their strength and detection due to the motion of a moon through that field, it could potentially generate an electric current.