Although the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, remain the least-explored planets in the solar system — each visited just once by NASA’s Voyager 2 in the mid- to late 1980s — APL researchers and engineers have worked to highlight the scientific value of exploring these worlds to gain a better understanding not only of their origins and evolution but also of planetary magnetospheres, life beyond Earth, and planets outside our solar system.
Research led by APL scientists has showcased the bizarre behaviors of ice giant magnetospheres and their value to understanding planets outside our solar system. It has also helped solidify the placement of Uranus’ moons Ariel and Miranda in the solar system’s cadre of suspected ocean-bearing worlds, even indicating those moons are potentially actively spewing material into space.
APL researchers and engineers have led or significantly participated in the development of five conceptual missions to explore the ice giant systems, including the Uranus Orbiter and Probe mission on which the Decadal Survey’s return mission recommendation was based.
In the last five years, the Lab has led or supported several efforts to bring ice giant experts together. These efforts, including a workshop held in London by the Royal Society in 2020, have helped keep specialists abreast of developments in the field and produced instrument and spacecraft concepts that will be able to address cross-disciplinary scientific investigations. Lab scientists also participated in the Uranus Flagship workshop held in Pasadena, California, in 2023 to advance planning for a future Uranus mission.
The Ice Giant Systems Seminar Series
Since fall 2021, APL has led the Ice Giant Systems Seminar Series, a monthly meetup that covers developments in the study of ice giants, including those pertaining to their atmospheres, satellites, rings, magnetic field, interiors, origins and evolution.
Born from discussions between the APL-led teams behind the Trident and Neptune Odyssey conceptual missions, and further validated by the Decadal Survey’s public call for a return flagship mission to Uranus, the Ice Giant Systems Seminar Series has connected more than 400 experts from around the globe on developments and news about these blue-hued worlds.
Led by APL’s Jodi Berdis and Mallory Kinczyk, the series occurs monthly, with each session hosted by a speaker who discusses recent research into ice giant systems. For more information about the seminar, visit https://icegiantsseminar.jhuapl.edu/.