Future mission of the ice giant

Future mission of the ice giant

Left: Voyager-2 observations of Uranus in 1986. Most of the cloud formations are hidden behind a layer of haze. Right: Neptune snapshot taken by Voyager 2. It displays the Great Dark Spot

Recently, NASA released a report on the mysterious ice giants Uranus and Neptune. The study of information received from previous years will greatly affect the scientific priorities of the agency in the years 2022-2032. The study examined the tasks that the mission will have to solve.

New findings prove the importance of researching at least one planet and its entire environment. This includes its dynamic satellites, rings and amazing magnetic fields. To date, only one device has approached these planets - Voyager-2. He was near Uranus in 1986 and flew over Neptune in 1989. It was a cursory inspection, so scientists still have not figured out the process of their formation. The study also takes into account various mission concepts, including the development of probes capable of immersing into the atmosphere and exploring its constituent components. Uranus has 27 satellites, and Neptune has the 14th.

Uranus and Neptune are called ice giants. Now this name seems to be not quite correct, since under the clouds there may be an ocean occupying 2/3 of the total mass. This is what differs from the gas giants. So far, there is no data on where and how such planets are formed, and also why their magnetic fields are so unusually oriented and what exactly affects the geological activity of some of their satellites.

These questions feed scientific interest. Therefore, the ice giant mission in the next decade could become a priority for NASA.

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