School: Delhi Public School
The sky above us has numerous wonders that hold many possibilities and mysteries. Ariel- Uranus’s fourth-largest, second closest, and brightest natural satellite has many appealing features that spiked up my curiosity and convinced me that it could be one of many wonders that can be home to new possibilities and provide us answers to old mysteries.
Ariel is mainly composed of water ice and silicate rock. In a recent study conducted by Richard Cartwright of SETI institute, it was hypothesized the presence of NH3- and NH4- bearing components on its surface. Though these NH3 compounds would get decomposed due to the constant bombardment of charged particles by Uranus’s magnetosphere, the study put forward the plausibility that the presence of an overlying veneer of H2O ice might lessen the destruction rate of NH3- rich deposits on Ariel. NH3 acting as an efficient antifreeze might help in the constitution of a liquid ocean under Ariel’s surface. Also, tidal heating by Uranus may provide enough heat to preserve this ocean and make it a potential reservoir of water and life. NASA should send the Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds (SPARROW) to extract ice samples for further research in the field of astrobiology.
A high amount of CO2 on this radiant satellite also made me extremely inquisitive about it. Here, the interaction of water-ice with charged particles may result in the decomposition of organic compounds trapped in it and form carbon-rich tholins that can nurture life. The bacteria ‘Deinococcus radiodurans’, one of the most radiation-resistant organisms known, can be sent here for experiments.
Furthermore, Ariel and other Uranus’s moons show many similarities to dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt, thus sending a probe to Ariel can also reveal the enigmas of objects hidden in the darkness of the Kuiper Belt.