A Wunda-full world? carbon dioxide ice deposits on Umbriel and other Uranian moons

Michael M. Sori, Jonathan Bapst, Ali M. Bramson, Shane Byrne, Margaret E. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Carbon dioxide has been detected on the trailing hemispheres of several Uranian satellites, but the exact nature and distribution of the molecules remain unknown. One such satellite, Umbriel, has a prominent high albedo annulus-shaped feature within the 131-km-diameter impact crater Wunda. We hypothesize that this feature is a solid deposit of CO2 ice. We combine thermal and ballistic transport modeling to study the evolution of CO2 molecules on the surface of Umbriel, a high-obliquity (∼98°) body. Considering processes such as sublimation and Jeans escape, we find that CO2 ice migrates to low latitudes on geologically short (100s–1000 s of years) timescales. Crater morphology and location create a local cold trap inside Wunda, and the slopes of crater walls and a central peak explain the deposit's annular shape. The high albedo and thermal inertia of CO2 ice relative to regolith allows deposits 15-m-thick or greater to be stable over the age of the solar system. We conclude that Wunda, located at low latitude (7.9° S) and near the center of the trailing hemisphere where CO2 detections are strongest, likely contains a solid CO2 ice deposit. We discuss prospects for similar CO2 ice deposits on crater floors on the other major Uranian moons, and predict that they are present on Ariel, Titania, and possibly Oberon (but not Miranda or smaller satellites). Such deposits have likely not been observed due to the limited nature of Voyager 2 image coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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