Jennifer Sauter

Jennifer Sauter

Grade: 11

School: Alameda High School

Teacher: Jennifer Campbell

City: Alameda, California

Topic: Oberon

Oberon is not a satellite of typical interest. A floating sphere with icy surface of 70 degrees Kelvin accompanied by a rocky core does not sound much like a harbinger of life. Neither does its sparse geological activity and lack of warm liquid water, indicating an absence of any identifiers of life. But, however lifeless Oberon may seem, the planet’s appearances are deceiving. Oberon is a living museum, and for those with an esoteric interest, it may be a gateway into discovering information about the conception of life as we know it.

Oberon is known to have one of the oldest surfaces of Uranus’s twenty-seven moons. With a surface so cold and unperturbed, the moon has kept the conditions of the early solar system frozen in time, in a state similar to cryostasis. If a spacecraft were to reach its surface, it could perform analytical experiments on the composition of its frozen matter. Using mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, or gas chromatography, a rover could attempt to identify the organic compounds that are present on the moon. Upon any findings of the four macromolecules of life, it is not unreasonable to assume that life could have formed in the gas and dust of the Sun’s protoplanetary disk, or shortly after. Macromolecules at this stage would have been preserved on a moon like Oberon because of its extremely cold temperature.

The famous Miller-Urey experiment has already proven that organic molecules can be created out of nonliving material. This information could be the basis of a mission to Oberon. The question about the conception of all life is far too intriguing to ignore, and the possibility of early life frozen in time on this far off moon could provide a long sought-after answer.

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