Azneef Ahammed Chowdhury
School: Chittagong Grammar School
"Voyaging to the distant worlds in our solar system is no easy task. But luckily for us, the information that we do have is more than enough to know about our far neighbours; namely Ariel, Oberon and Titania - three moons of the giant planet, Uranus.
As mentioned earlier, space exploration takes a lot of resources to accomplish, as a result considering the opportunity cost of our decision is vital while choosing what to explore billions of kilometers away. Here is my reason why Ariel, the 4th largest of the 27 moons of Uranus, is worth it for early exploration of the outer solar system.
Ariel’s interesting orbit in the equatorial plane orbit of Uranus is almost perpendicular to the orbit of its parent planet. The Voyager 2, which has been the only probe to do a close flyby around Uranus’ moons; also observed that Ariel was made of half ice and rock as well as carbonaceous materials including organic compounds known as tholins. Infrared spectroscopic observations also revealed crystalline water ice on the surface of the moon, which is porous and transmits solar heat to layers below. This might be key for exploring probes to collect energy from underneath the surface of Ariel besides the Radioisotope power generators inside the probe. Adding to that, water ice absorption bands are stronger on Ariel's leading hemisphere than on its trailing hemisphere. Scientists are still not sure the cause of this phenomenon, but it is hypothesised that it may be related to bombardment by charged particles from Uranus's magnetosphere, which is stronger on the trailing hemisphere caused by the plasma co rotation.
Ariel’s interesting characteristics set it out from its other neighbours, thus making it extremely fragile. So, it is requisite that we understand and explore this planet and gain knowledge for further explorations."