(ORDO NEWS) — In a recent study published in the journal Planetary Science, scientists at the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute in California examined the likely origin of regolith deposits on Uranus’ moon Miranda.
The purpose of this work was to study the internal structure of Miranda, which would allow to determine whether this small moon has an internal ocean.
“It’s unlikely that Miranda would have been able to preserve the subsurface ocean to this day because of its small size,” said Dr. Chloe Beddingfield of NASA‘s Ames Research Center.
“However, a thick layer of regolith would act as an insulating blanket, keeping Miranda warm inside and increasing the longevity of the subsurface ocean for some period.
This trapped heat would also contribute to endogenous activity on Miranda for longer periods of time.”
The researchers analyzed Miranda’s craters. These analyzes included measuring the ratio of crater depth to diameter and the distribution of craters by size and frequency.
The results of the study identified three possible sources of the thick regolith layer on Miranda: a giant impact ejection, plume deposits, and ring deposits of Uranus.
The researchers say they support the ring origin hypothesis due to Miranda’s blue color and the large spatial extent and thickness of its regolith.
“If material from the rings of Uranus was the primary source of Miranda’s regolith, then this could indicate that Miranda formed from ring material and/or migrated through the rings in its early history,” Dr. Beddingfield said.
“In these scenarios, the rings of Uranus may have been thicker in the past. However, future modeling work is needed to explore these possibilities further.”
Miranda was first discovered on February 16, 1948 by Gerard P. Kuiper at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas, and was visited by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1986.
This close encounter revealed a chaotic and intriguing world with craters, valleys and chasms all over its surface.
One of the features of Miranda are crowns – large deformations, which, according to scientists, were formed as a result of tectonic activity.
“Because Miranda’s thick, insulating regolith would have reduced heat loss and possibly increased geological activity, the regolith could have contributed to the formation of crowns,” said Dr. Beddingfield.
“It is believed that the crowns were formed from ascending diapirs that pierced the surface of Miranda.
It is possible that the crowns got their polygonal shapes when these diapirs formed along pre-existing weak regions in the lithosphere formed by pre-existing faults that make up the global rift system.
While the existence of the Miranda regolith tells us little about the specific processes involved in the formation of the corona, it does allow us to gain insight into the relative timing of events and shows that geological activity likely occurred over long periods of time.”
The article also emphasizes that further research is needed to consider other hypotheses for the origin of regolith on Miranda.
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