DEC 21, 2022 6:00 AM PST

Solar System Moons: Miranda

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The solar system has over 200 moons and exhibits some unique features, but one stands out as being extra weird. This is Miranda, which is one of Uranus’ 27 moons, and is just another example of how the universe is both a weird and wonderful place. While Miranda isn’t the largest moon of Uranus, its surface features definitely make it stand out among the rest, with its heavy cratering, huge cliffs and canyons, but also its giant surface streaks. Miranda gives the appearance of an object that was blown up and haphazardly pieced together again, which might make Humpty Dumpty blush.

Unlike most celestial objects that might have been discovered centuries ago, Miranda wasn’t discovered until 1948 by Gerard P. Kuiper at the McDonald Observatory in western Texas. As a result of this, Miranda didn’t have to wait centuries to be explored, as the Voyager 2 spacecraft visited this unique moon of Uranus in 1986, sending back images of steep cliffs and massive chasms, which only puzzled scientists as to both its formation and evolution.

Close-up image of a potential 12 mi (20 km) high fault scarp on Miranda. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

There are several hypotheses pertaining to Miranda’s formation and evolution, one of which is the being blown apart via a collision and slowly put back together or reassembled, but a popular hypothesis is that massive strikes caused ice to melt, resulting in some of the unique surface streaks. 

Miranda is approximately 310 miles (500 km) in diameter and has such weak gravity that falling off one of its massive cliffs would take quite some time to reach the bottom, but the ending wouldn’t be the best.

With no current missions scheduled to re-visit Uranus, Miranda will continue to orbit Uranus until we can visit it again. What further secrets will we unveil about this mysterious moon when we explore it up-close again, someday? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

Sources: NASA, Universe Guide

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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