(ORDO NEWS) — Miranda, the smallest of Uranus’ moons, is covered in a thick layer of regolith that covers it like a duvet. Now a couple of American astronomers have been able to establish its origin.
Of the five largest moons of Uranus , Miranda is the smallest and closest to the planet. Its surface is extremely varied in relief – it has faults, valleys, terraces and ridges, creating a complex multi-colored pattern, visible even from space and, probably, indicating the complex composition of Miranda.
Miranda is small, so its core should have cooled long ago, but its surface is covered by the thickest layer of regolith recorded in the solar system.
It could act like a duvet and keep the possibility of the existence of the underground ocean to the present day.
In addition, the “blanket” would extend the geological activity on Miranda, which is critical for the development of life.
Researchers from the SETI Institute (USA) studied the surface of Miranda, paying special attention to impact craters left after the satellite collided with other celestial objects.
They measured the ratio of the depth and diameter of the craters, counted their number and studied in detail the largest crater, Alonso, whose depth is about 24 kilometers.
The results of the study identified three potential sources of Miranda’s thick regolith layer: impact ejecta, plume deposits, and sediment from the rings of Uranus itself.
Because of Miranda’s blue color and extraordinarily thick layer of regolith, scientists hold to the latter hypothesis, which suggests that early in its history, Miranda was inside the ring region of Uranus, or that the latter were much larger than they are today.
Unfortunately, so far only one exploration probe, Voyager 2, has visited the Uranian system in January 1986, and since then no new missions have been planned to explore the outermost planets of our solar system.
Since Miranda shows no signs of geological activity, we can only guess whether there is a liquid ocean under its surface and whether its potential inhabitants will wait for the time when humanity can discover them.
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