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Published on February 13th, 2012 | by Yellow Magpie


Miranda Uranus’s Moon: Home Of Colossal Canyons


Uranus’s Moon Miranda

Voyager 2’s fly-by, as it undertook its long journey out of the confines of the Solar System, has presented us with the only close-up images that we possess of the Uranus’s moon Miranda.

Miranda is named after the character in William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.

Formation Of Uranus’s Moon Miranda

There are two main hypothesis of when the accretion disk was formed. Either it was left over after Uranus’s formation or it was formed by a huge impact that may have resulted in the planet’s very peculiar axial rotation.

The low-density of Uranus’s moon Miranda suggests that the satellite is made up mainly of water ice but it also probably has a rocky core.

Close Up Of Uranus's Moon Miranda's Rugged Cratered Terrain

A Small Freezing Cold Satellite

Uranus’s moon Miranda takes just under one and a half days to complete a trip around Uranus. It does so at a distance of 129,000 kilometres (80,000 miles).

Miranda, like Uranus’s other moon, Ariel, has average surface temperature of minus 213 degrees Celsius (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit).

At just 470 kilometres in width, Miranda is the smallest of Uranus’s five major moons.

Uranus’s Moon Miranda: Geologically Busy

Uranus’s moon Miranda shows more evidence of past geologic activity than any of the other Uranian satellites.
Miranda’s surface may be mostly water ice, with the low-density body also probably containing silicate rock and organic compounds in its interior.

The previous geological activity is believed to have been powered by tidal heating. Uranus’s moon Miranda is thought to have had a much more eccentric orbit than it does today. It would have warmed due to the gravitational pull exerted by both Uranus and other Uranian moons.

Scientists maintain that Uranus’s moon Miranda previously was in an orbital resonance with both Umbriel and Ariel. This resonance would have also helped to heat Miranda’s interior.

Craters Canyons And Chasmata

The surface of Uranus’s moon Miranda is laden with canyons, hilly terrain, coronae and scarps.

Coranae are found throughout the moon. These grooves surround upland areas where warmed ice rose up to create highland areas. These upland features are known as diapirs.

Verona Rupes Scarp On Uranus's Moon Miranda

However, by far the most attention-grabbing geological feature found on Uranus’s moon  Miranda is its canyons. Some of these are thought to be up to 12 times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Another impressive feature is Verona Rupes which at up to ten kilometres (six miles) is the largest known cliff in the Solar System.

Miranda And Future

Not since over two decades ago has a spacecraft visited Uranus’s moon Miranda. Unfortunately, there are no planned missions for the foreseeable future.

Highly Recommended Reading

Check out Yellow Magpie’s Uranus: The Coldest Ice Giant for more insight into the largest planet in the Solar System.

You may also wish to take a gander at The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.
Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of the asteroids and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.

For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.

For Germany: Cosmos.

For France: Cosmos.

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