Status Report

Keys of a Mission to Uranus or Neptune, the Closest Ice Giants

By SpaceRef Editor
December 22, 2020
Filed under ,

Tristan Guillot (LAGRANGE), Jonathan Fortney, Emily Rauscher, Mark S. Marley, Vivien Parmentier, Mike Line, Hannah Wakeford, Yohai Kaspi, Ravit Helled, Masahiro Ikoma, Heather Knutson, Kristen Menou, Diana Valencia, Daniele Durante, Shigeru Ida, Scott J. Bolton, Cheng Li, Kevin B. Stevenson, Jacob Bean, Nicolas B. Cowan, Mark D. Hofstadter, Ricardo Hueso, Jeremy Leconte (LAB), Liming Li, Christoph Mordasini, Olivier Mousis, Nadine Nettelmann, Krista Soderlund, Michael H. Wong

Uranus and Neptune are the archetypes of “ice giants”, a class of planets that may be among the most common in the Galaxy. They hold the keys to understand the atmospheric dynamics and structure of planets with hydrogen atmospheres inside and outside the solar system; however, they are also the last unexplored planets of the Solar System. Their atmospheres are active and storms are believed to be fueled by methane condensation which is both extremely abundant and occurs at low optical depth. This means that mapping temperature and methane abundance as a function of position and depth will inform us on how convection organizes in an atmosphere with no surface and condensates that are heavier than the surrounding air, a general feature of giant planets. Owing to the spatial and temporal variability of these atmospheres, an orbiter is required. A probe would provide a reference atmospheric profile to lift ambiguities inherent to remote observations. It would also measure the abundances of noble gases which can be used to reconstruct the history of planet formation in the Solar System. Finally, mapping the planets’ gravity and magnetic fields will be essential to constrain their global composition, atmospheric dynamics, structure and evolution. An exploration of Uranus or Neptune will be essential to understand these planets and will also be key to constrain and analyze data obtained at Jupiter, Saturn, and for numerous exoplanets with hydrogen atmospheres.

Comments: arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:1908.02092

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)

Cite as: arXiv:2012.09863 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2012.09863v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Tristan Guillot 

[v1] Thu, 17 Dec 2020 08:26:44 UTC (3,873 KB)

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