Probing the regoliths of the classical Uranian satellites: Are their surfaces mantled by a layer of tiny H2O ice grains?

Richard J. Cartwright, Joshua P. Emery, William M. Grundy, Dale P. Cruikshank, Chloe B. Beddingfield, Noemi Pinilla-Alonso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We investigate whether the surfaces of the classical moons of Uranus are compositionally stratified, with a thin veneer of mostly tiny H2O ice grains (≤2 μm diameters) mantling a lower layer composed of larger grains of H2O ice, dark material, and CO2 ice (~10–50 μm diameters). Near-infrared observations (~1–2.5 μm) have determined that the H2O ice-rich surfaces of these moons are overprinted by concentrated deposits of CO2 ice, found almost exclusively on their trailing hemispheres. However, best fit spectral models of longer wavelength datasets (~3–5 μm) indicate that the spectral signature of CO2 ice is largely absent, and instead, the exposed surfaces of these moons are composed primarily of tiny H2O ice grains. To investigate possible compositional layering of these moons, we have collected new data using the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) onboard the Spitzer Space Telescope (~3–5 μm). Spectral modeling of these new data is consistent with prior analyses, suggesting that the exposed surfaces of the Uranian moons are primarily composed of tiny H2O ice grains. Furthermore, analysis of these new data reveal that the trailing hemispheres of these moons are brighter than their leading hemispheres over the 3 to 5 μm wavelength range, except for Miranda, which displays no hemispherical asymmetries in its IRAC albedos. Our analyses also reveal that the surface of Ariel displays five distinct, regional-scale albedo zones, possibly consistent with the spatial distribution of CO2 ice on this moon. We discuss possible processes that could be enhancing the observed leading/trailing albedo asymmetries exhibited by these moons, as well as processes that could be driving the apparent compositional stratification of their near surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113513
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Probing the regoliths of the classical Uranian satellites: Are their surfaces mantled by a layer of tiny H2O ice grains?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this