Kyunghyun (Brian) Moon
Ariel, a moon discovered by English astronomer William Lassel, is named after a character from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Ariel has features that convince one to believe it is the place to return to, including but not limited to the surface, the existence of carbon dioxide and brightness.
Ariel is the second smallest of Uranus’ five major rounded satellites and the second closest to its planet. Its surface shows signs of more recent geological activity than other moons, most likely caused by tidal heating. With an average orbital velocity of 5.51km/s, Ariel’s rotation is synchronous with its orbit, meaning it is tidally locked with Uranus. With an average density of 1.66 g/cm3, Ariel is estimated to be composed equally of water ice and rock/carbonaceous material, including heavy organic compounds. From the spectrographic analysis, it was revealed that Ariel has richer water ice than its trailing hemisphere. Another combination identified as carbon dioxide, concentrated mainly on its trailing hemisphere. The origin is not clear, but it shows the strongest spectroscopic evidence for carbon dioxide. Some postulations include local production from carbonates or organic materials from energetic charged particles originating from Uranus’s magnetosphere or solar ultraviolet radiation and outgassing of primordial carbon dioxide trapped by water ice Ariel’s interior.
Carbon dioxide is essential for life as it is the building block for all life. Plants consume carbon dioxide to grow, and animals consume plants to obtain the necessary carbon for existence. It is also possible that salt or ammonia is present in Ariel, indicating it may be the best place for a life to emerge. The building block for life predominantly occurs in the form of ammonium salts.
It appears to be fairly even cratered compared to other moons. The surface density that is lower than those of Oberon and Umbriel suggests Ariel must have been completely resurfaced at some point. Ariel consists of complex network of deep rift valleys intersecting the entire surface of the moon. It is very similar to those on Mars, very smooth floors. The most likely thought of the origin for the plains is through cryovolcanism, the extrusion of liquids and vapors of materials that would be frozen solid at the planetary surface temperatures of the icy bodies of the outer solar system. The geometry shows similarity to the shield volcanoes on Earth.
It also has the brightest surface of the five largest Uranian moons, with Bond albedo of 23% while Earth has roughly 39% Albedo.
Ariel has features that are necessary to give birth to life, water, salt or ammonium and carbon dioxide. With its surface smooth compared to other moons, and some features resembling that of old Earth, Ariel strikes as the best place for one to return to.