Presented by University College London, Imperial College London, University of Kent, and Queen’s University Belfast

Geraint Jones
Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London and the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck

Exhibit blog

Mimas in colour. 

One of our little fun exhibits is the 3D model of Mimas. Here’s the real thing in all its glory, taken by the Cassini spacecraft. The colours have been exaggerated. The enormous crater Herschel dominates this view. Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Insitute.

Further reading

The moons and dwarf planets in the Outer Solar System, although incredibly cold, are not dead celestial bodies. Many of them have atmospheres, volcanoes that erupt water, and underground oceans.

See the scientists explain the science behind their exhibit in the video above, produced by students from Imperial College: Lucy Leigh-Pemberton, Isobel Lawrence

How it works

This exhibit will demonstrate how the moons of the outer planets and the diverse objects residing beyond Pluto display evidence of major geological processes, and that some could provide habitable environments beyond Earth.

Space missions have revealed that moons show a vast array of geological processes. For example, Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, jets water vapour and ice grains into space. Other moons have atmospheres, including Titan’s thick, chemically complex atmosphere.

Pluto, a planet that has been reclassified as a ‘dwarf’ planet, is now seen as a prototype of a fascinating body of objects that populate the solar system’s farthest reaches. Several research projects are studying these Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), gathering data from the Earth’s largest telescopes and from space missions.

Astronomers, physicists and chemists use their expertise to understand the gravity, orbits, compositions and atmospheres of these ice worlds, and how their surfaces are altered by radiation exposure. The presence of subsurface oceans on some of these worlds provides some of the most habitable environments beyond

Lead Image: Jupiter's large icy moon Europa, discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei; its mineral-stained surface is covered in countless cracks. Image: NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk