Zoey Skoutas

Grade: 6

School: The Sage School

Teacher: Aimee Gaumond Davies

City: Foxboro, Massachusetts

Topic: Ariel

When Voyager 2 flew by Uranus, it prompted more questions than answers about the atmosphere and history of the planet’s moons. Ariel is the best moon to revisit because its smaller, less-cratered surface and recent geological activity would allow scientists to learn more about this unique moon and its home planet.

Ariel’s small and smooth surface would make it the most efficient moon to send a rover to, allowing scientists to gather more data and pictures. Since Titania is the largest Uranian moon, and Ariel is 35% smaller than Titania, a rover would cover more ground on Ariel in less time. Like a car rolling over a rocky road, collecting samples on Oberon’s heavily-cratered outer layer or Titania’s fissured crust would be difficult. Scientists wouldn’t have this problem on Ariel because an unknown liquid eroded its exterior. Navigating Ariel’s surface and collecting information could help scientists discover new elements with possible life-saving properties and date its rocks to understand its history.

These moons were active early in their history, but Ariel’s recent geologic movements make it easier to study because it can tell us about the early history of the universe and recent activities. Scientists Torrence Johnson, Robert Brown, and Laurence Soderblom discovered that “Ariel's history is reminiscent of Titania's, except that the geologic activity on Ariel was more intense, more extensive and more prolonged.” Of the three moons, Oberon has the least geological phenomena, and Ariel has more than Titania. Because Ariel has both older craters and newly-formed fault lines, we can learn about its bombardment and Uranus’s history from 4 billion years ago up to the recent past. Ultimately, these moons raise several questions, but Ariel’s long timeline of geological activity and smooth surface will help scientists uncover the many mysteries surrounding the formation of the moon itself.

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