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The science case for an orbital mission to Uranus: exploring the origins and evolution of ice giant planets

The science case for an orbital mission to Uranus: exploring the origins and evolution of ice giant planets
The science case for an orbital mission to Uranus: exploring the origins and evolution of ice giant planets

Giant planets helped to shape the conditions we see in the Solar System today and they account for more than 99% of the mass of the Sun's planetary system. They can be subdivided into the Ice Giants (Uranus and Neptune) and the Gas Giants (Jupiter and Saturn), which differ from each other in a number of fundamental ways. Uranus, in particular is the most challenging to our understanding of planetary formation and evolution, with its large obliquity, low self-luminosity, highly asymmetrical internal field, and puzzling internal structure. Uranus also has a rich planetary system consisting of a system of inner natural satellites and complex ring system, five major natural icy satellites, a system of irregular moons with varied dynamical histories, and a highly asymmetrical magnetosphere. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have explored Uranus, with a flyby in 1986, and no mission is currently planned to this enigmatic system. However, a mission to the uranian system would open a new window on the origin and evolution of the Solar System and would provide crucial information on a wide variety of physicochemical processes in our Solar System. These have clear implications for understanding exoplanetary systems. In this paper we describe the science case for an orbital mission to Uranus with an atmospheric entry probe to sample the composition and atmospheric physics in Uranus' atmosphere. The characteristics of such an orbiter and a strawman scientific payload are described and we discuss the technical challenges for such a mission. This paper is based on a white paper submitted to the European Space Agency's call for science themes for its large-class mission programme in 2013.

Atmosphere, Magnetosphere, Natural satellites, Planetary interior, Rings, Uranus
0032-0633
122-140
Arridge, C.S.
2efb7acf-be5b-41b4-bade-8b4ff0d78236
Achilleos, N.
2d7c619e-cbb3-4956-9769-cc99d2021296
Agarwal, J.
ff300e43-4d90-4e8a-8623-0b7e478be3b7
Jackman, Caitriona
9bc3456c-b254-48f1-ade0-912c5b8b4529
et al.
Arridge, C.S.
2efb7acf-be5b-41b4-bade-8b4ff0d78236
Achilleos, N.
2d7c619e-cbb3-4956-9769-cc99d2021296
Agarwal, J.
ff300e43-4d90-4e8a-8623-0b7e478be3b7
Jackman, Caitriona
9bc3456c-b254-48f1-ade0-912c5b8b4529

Arridge, C.S., Achilleos, N. and Agarwal, J. , et al. (2014) The science case for an orbital mission to Uranus: exploring the origins and evolution of ice giant planets. Planetary and Space Science, 104 (Part A), 122-140. (doi:10.1016/j.pss.2014.08.009).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Giant planets helped to shape the conditions we see in the Solar System today and they account for more than 99% of the mass of the Sun's planetary system. They can be subdivided into the Ice Giants (Uranus and Neptune) and the Gas Giants (Jupiter and Saturn), which differ from each other in a number of fundamental ways. Uranus, in particular is the most challenging to our understanding of planetary formation and evolution, with its large obliquity, low self-luminosity, highly asymmetrical internal field, and puzzling internal structure. Uranus also has a rich planetary system consisting of a system of inner natural satellites and complex ring system, five major natural icy satellites, a system of irregular moons with varied dynamical histories, and a highly asymmetrical magnetosphere. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have explored Uranus, with a flyby in 1986, and no mission is currently planned to this enigmatic system. However, a mission to the uranian system would open a new window on the origin and evolution of the Solar System and would provide crucial information on a wide variety of physicochemical processes in our Solar System. These have clear implications for understanding exoplanetary systems. In this paper we describe the science case for an orbital mission to Uranus with an atmospheric entry probe to sample the composition and atmospheric physics in Uranus' atmosphere. The characteristics of such an orbiter and a strawman scientific payload are described and we discuss the technical challenges for such a mission. This paper is based on a white paper submitted to the European Space Agency's call for science themes for its large-class mission programme in 2013.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 7 August 2014
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 August 2014
Published date: 1 December 2014
Keywords: Atmosphere, Magnetosphere, Natural satellites, Planetary interior, Rings, Uranus

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 436360
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/436360
ISSN: 0032-0633
PURE UUID: ba65c386-5b90-499a-b8e6-63d7d51b4bf0
ORCID for Caitriona Jackman: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0635-7361

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Dec 2019 17:30
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 03:02

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Contributors

Author: C.S. Arridge
Author: N. Achilleos
Author: J. Agarwal
Corporate Author: et al.

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