We may be one step closer to answer one of the many questions surrounding Uranus and its 27 moons. NASA’s Voyager satellite captured data that revealed four of Uranus five largest moons may have oceans of water.
NASA notes that previously it was believed that Uranus’ five largest moons, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, and Miranda were too small to reliably retain enough heat to keep an internal ocean from freezing.
However, the new study, which scientists published in the Journal of Geophysical Research could help inform scientists on future studies of Uranus and its major moons. That’s because this new study suggests that NASA’s Voyager 2 flyby of Uranus in the 1980s revealed more than we previously thought.
Ranging between 720 miles to 980 miles across (1,160 to 1,580 kilometers), Uranus’ moons are small. Titania is so small that, based on older observations, it’s only “likely”. Scientists revisiting old observations claim that new modeling may suggest the opposite.
For starters, the scientists took the old data from Voyager 2 and then combined it with models including insights from NASA’s Galileo, Cassini, awn, and New Horizons spacecraft. These spacecraft have all been known to discover ocean worlds.
They then looked at data from the geology of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Pluto and its moon Charon, as well as Ceres — icy bodies around the same size as Uranus’ moons.
By combining all of this information together, the researchers discovered that Uranus’ moons are likely insulated enough to retain the level of internal heat needed to keep an ocean beneath their surfaces from freezing. Ariel’s surface was also recently spotted with a liquid.
They also found what could be potential heat sources in the icy surfaces of Uranus’ five largest moons, which could provide further evidence of internal oceans on those Uranian satellites. Of course, future missions to Uranus could help us dive deeper, which is why many are pushing the U.S. and other countries to probe the planet.