Zeph Zhang

Year: 2020-2021

Zeph Zhong

Grade: 9

School: Takapuna Grammar School

City: Auckland

Topic: Ariel

"Discovered by William Lassell in 1851, Ariel is the second closest major moon to Uranus. Like the other 4 main Uranian moons, Ariel comprised roughly equal amounts of water ice and dense rock. It is a candidate for astrobiological life in the solar system and may provide valuable information in the ongoing search for non-terrestrial lifeforms.

The potential presence of a now-frozen underground ocean at the core-mantle boundary is the most cogent and compelling reason to conduct further analysis of the icy moon. The existence of such an ocean is circumscribed by the necessary conditions for one. Although little is known about Ariel and it’s history, evidence suggests that liquid water has been on the moon before.


When Voyager 2 flew by Ariel in 1986, it captured 40% of its surface. These images also showed extensive scarps, ridges, and canyons, implying that Ariel is, or once was a geologically active moon. Ariel’s surface is less cratered than its other Uranian counterparts, suggesting an endogenic resurfacing, probably earlier in its history when its orbit was more eccentric and it’s temperature was higher.

Photos gathered from the Voyager 2 spacecraft showed extensive plains, indicating cryovolcanism of a viscous substance, probably ammonia, an antifreeze. An ammonia-water solution may lower the freezing point of water down to 176°K. The core temperature of Ariel is thought to be higher than this temperature for billions of years, long enough for primitive life to form. This heat could be resultant from:

● Tidal forces

● Radiogenic heat

● Historical orbital resonances with other Uranian moons

A hypothetical probe; preferably a Uranus orbiter, should endeavour to map the surface of Ariel with cameras, detect the signs and products of life, and explore the moon’s geologic history. This could provide valuable information for the largest question of the universe: “Are we alone?”"

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