Teodora Elena Dinu and David Stefan Dinu
School: I.H. Radulescu Secondary School
Is there life in space? This is the question that haunted scientists since ancient times.
Europe and Enceladus, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, are seen as the main candidates in our solar system. Passing through the thick crust of ice on their surface will of course be a challenge for the scientists who hope that one day they will reach an underground ocean and study it better. Something similar was discovered on Titania, Uranus' largest natural satellite.
This satellite presents evidence of cryo-vulcanism - the phenomenon that occurs when water vapor is trapped under the surface of a celestial body and freezes due to low temperatures. In addition, the images sent by Voyager 2 in 1986 show, on Titania, dunes, ridges and valleys, possible results of underground oceans.
Researchers at MIT believe that a future expedition could confirm the presence of liquid water beneath Titania’s crust, based on the strength of the magnetic field induced by Uranus on the moon’s hypothetical subsurface ocean (a method also used to confirm the underground ocean on Europe).
Even if we knew that Titania has a form of liquid water under its surface, we still don't know if it fulfills the other requirements to be able to host life.
Traces of carbon dioxide have been found on several Uranus satellites, and Titania, being more massive, can retain this carbon dioxide in greater quantity. Unfortunately, low gravity does not allow it to retain other gases such as nitrogen or oxygen.
However, confirming the existence of an underground ocean on Titania would represent a major step in understanding the structure of our solar system and the specific conditions which make the existence of liquid water possible in space and by doing so could bring us closer to our goal: finding extraterrestrial life.