NATURE NEWS BLOG

Could a moon of Uranus harbour an underground ocean?

15 Oct 2012 | 20:13 BST | Posted by Eric Hand

Posted on behalf of Ron Cowen

Since 2005, astrobiologists have considered Enceladus a possible haven for life, after the Cassini mission found that the icy moon of Saturn shoots out plumes of water through fissures in its crust. But planetary scientists Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and Julie Castillo-Rogez of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are now turning their eyes to an even more distant Solar System locale: Ariel, a moon of Uranus that they think could also harbour an underground ocean.

Like Enceladus, Ariel’s surface appears relatively blemish free, with few large craters, as if recent activity had erased or buried older pockmarks. Flow-like features on Ariel suggest icy volcanism may have been responsible for the facelift, as it has on Enceladus. But in the frigid depths of the outer Solar System, what could maintain an ocean beneath the surface of Ariel?

Read more: Nature News Blog: Could a moon of Uranus harbour an underground ocean?

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