Ana-Alexia Alecu, Diana-Camelia Buruian and Daria-Stefania Gughea

Ana-Alexia Alecu, Diana-Camelia Buruian and Daria-Stefania Gughea

School: “Iulia Hasdeu” National High School

City: Bucharest

Topic: Miranda

"Miranda is the smallest round natural satellite of Uranus and it has been named after Shakespeare’s play „The Tempest”. It’s also called The „Frankenstein” moon because of its bizarre aspect. It has an enormous research potential because since it was discovered, in 1948, by Gerard Kuiper, it has aroused scientists’ curiosity towards understanding the factors that contributed to the finalization of its current shape.

Artist's rendering of Voyager 2 and Miranda
The surface of Miranda is like a mosaic of geological forms and some theories claim that under the impact of a meteorite it was broken apart in several pieces but it recovered its round shape all by itself with the help of her gravity. Thus, 3 giant grooved structures were formed, called „coronae”, each at least 200 km wide and up to 20 km deep. They also got their names from locations in Shakespeare’s play: Arden, Elsinore and Inverness. The largest known cliff in the Solar System, Verona Rupes (20 km high) and, in South, huge racetracks with a width of 195 km, are located on this satellite. The study of these characteristics are considered to be highly important, as they are unprecedented. Additionally, the knowledge of mankind is limited to the images recorded by Voyager 2, in 1986, when the spacecraft passed through the upper layers of Uranus’ atmosphere, sending us information about the complex surfaces of a single side of the moon. Yet, what mysteries does the other side of the moon hold? Are there other unusual landscapes or even life traces?

We can find out the answers by studying the structure of the moon, the characteristics of its temperature and other features. So far, we know that it’s made of more than 60% water ice and silicon rocks. Water is vital to the development of life, so some microorganisms may have adapted to extreme survival conditions and to this state of water aggregation, ice. There are many cosmic dangers, such as meteorites, spread all over the galaxy that are susceptible to collide with Earth at any time, as it happened 16 million years ago. Thus, one day, the human species will survive only by finding alternative methods. Conducting these experiments requires thorough preparation, as well as developing robots, computer software and technology that could endure any challenges.

Furthermore, although it is closer than the other two moons, Triton and Charon, a simple landing mission on Miranda would require highly developed equipment for astronauts. Staying on Miranda requires adapting technology to a gravitation of less than 1% compared to the Earth’s, the absence of atmosphere, very low surface temperatures of -187°C, the lack of meteorological phenomena and, most importantly, frequent seismic movements and cryovolcanic eruptions which could cause the deformation of the geological structures of this moon.

For these reasons, further exploration of Miranda will give us a deeper understanding of its „Frankenstein” shape and may unravel the existence of life, making it a priority to send another spacecraft to this ice-covered moon, in order to unlock her secrets."

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