School: National Cathedral School
Teacher: Deborah Virtue
City: Washington, DC
For decades, scientists have been searching for extraterrestrial water in our solar system. The indispensability of water to life, its incredible power, and the many distinctive properties of this simple molecule are what make finding even a trace of it anywhere in space so exciting. According to data and observations from a 1986 NASA mission, there is a possibility of an entire subsurface ocean on Uranus’ brightest moon, Ariel, which is potentially linked to the satellite’s geological history in significant ways.
A mission to Ariel could also confirm the presence of an ocean on the satellite by using magnetic, libration, gravity field, or topographical evaluations of tidal flexing. The confirmation of oceans on Ariel would open the door to almost endless possibilities, which could then be explored, including the oceans’ habitability and even the prospect of existing life on the moon.
Ariel is believed to be the only ocean world in the Uranian system. Choosing to further explore this fascinating moon holds the potential for countless discoveries not only about Ariel’s fascinating history and continuous change but also in relation to Uranus and even our solar system’s ongoing evolution.