Eva Alexandra Gheorghiu and Lavinia Georgeta Lixandru
School: Gheorghe Șincai National High School
If given a chance to land on one of the main Uranus’ moons, Oberon would be it.
Characteristics revealed during the 1986 Voyager 2 “glimpse”, ~200 years since discovery, make Oberon model for other Uranus moons and potential gatekeeper of Universe’s best kept secrets: it’s evolution and life’s “inner fabric”.
Facts: Farthest from Uranus, ninth largest known moon, Oberon has heavily cratered surface (resembling Umbriel’s), fault bordered depressions (chasma) and high mountain(s) reflecting early geologic activity and attesting moon’s crust as the oldest among Uranus’ satellites. Few bright craters appearing flooded by a dark material, originating from the moon’s interior, indicate recent geologic activity – resembling Titania and Ariel comparatively “younger” crusts.
Facts: Oberon is the reddest of the moons possibly due to micrometeorites surface bombardment over millions of years and accretion of spiraling in material from outer space. The distinct colored areas of fresh impact deposits suggest rich chemical diversity, and warrant access to evolutionary traits unique among Uranus’ satellites. Like for other Uranian moons, spectroscopic observations confirmed that ice is present on Oberon. Oberon’s density indicates a large rocky/carbonaceous core wrapped in icy mantle - full composition currently unknown. Some craters have eject rays that could be related to inner liquid water theory (based on Saturn’s moons research).
Question: if Oberon were to contain ammonia/antifreeze compounds, thus a liquid ocean inside, assuming that hydrothermal vents exist, could life be possible near the core? What would be the effect of the extreme (42 years) seasonal cycles and tidal Uranus magnetosphere exposure on it?
Conclusions: both the external and the internal structure of Oberon depend heavily on its history, woven in the intricate fabric of the Universe, it blends the common characteristics of the other moons with unique characteristics recommending it as the next space expedition dream target.