Uranus’ two largest moons – the seventh planet in the Solar System – may be hiding buried oceans.
According to the Daily Mail, Uranus is also known as the “ice giant” and has 27 moons orbiting it. In which, Titania is the largest moon with a diameter of about 1,576 km and Oberon is the second largest moon with a diameter of about 1,522 km.
Both have an average surface temperature of about -200 degrees Celsius, but the radioactive elements deep inside them can cause some of the water inside to melt.
Many moons are smaller and closer to Uranus than Titania and Oberon, getting most of their internal warmth from tidal heating. Tidal heating is not enough to melt the ice beneath the frozen surfaces of the larger and more distant moons, including Titania and Oberon.
However, the liquid oceans below the surface of Titania and Oberon could be prevented by other factors from freezing. One of those factors is holes in the lunar surface and how big they are. A moon with a less porous surface will lose more heat into space than a more porous surface.
Another factor is that oceans can contain ammonia, which lowers the melting point of liquids. The third factor is clathrates – which can limit heat escaping into the ocean.
According to the study, if holes make up more than 12% of Titania’s surface, or ammonia makes up more than 10% of Titania’s ocean’s weight, an ocean more than 1km long could be hiding beneath the moon’s surface. These estimates may be true for Oberon as well.
Scientists say it is important to design future missions with the ability to detect oceans on all five of Uranus’ main moons – Oberon, Titania, Umbriel, Ariel and Miranda – is very important.
NASA is leading the effort to launch space probes to Uranus and Neptune, as well as their natural satellites.
Little was known about the moons of Uranus, until NASA’s Voyager 2 space probe passed them during a flyby of Uranus in January 1986.
Uranus has been shown to have a magnetic field that is deflected from its axis of rotation, unlike other planets ever visited by spacecraft.