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June 8, 2024 46 mins

In this classic episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe continue their multi-year mission to discuss the various moons of our solar system – this time with the literary-themed moons of the ice giant Uranus. (Part 3 of 3, originally published 05/16/2023)

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:06):
Hey, welcome to stuff to blow your mind. My name
is Robert Lamb. We returned to the vault once more,
this time for the Moons of UNO's Part three, originally
published five sixteen, twenty twenty three. Dive right in. This
is part three of three. Enjoy.

Speaker 2 (00:25):
These are the forgeries of jealousy. And never since the
middle summer's spring met we on a hill in dale forest,
or mead by paved fountain, or by rushing brook, or
in the beached margin of the sea, to dance our
ringlets to the whistling wind. But with thy brawls thou
hast disturbed our sport. Therefore the winds piping to us

in vain as in revenge, have sucked up from the sea.
Contagious fogs, which falling in the land, have every pelting
river made so proud that they have over borne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vein, The
plowman lost his sweat, and the green corn hath rotted,

ere his youth attained a beard. The fold stands empty
in the drowned field, and crows are fatted with the
murray and flock. The nine men's morris is filled up
with mud, and the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
for lack of tread, are undistinguishable. The human mortals want
their winter here. No night is now with him or

Carol blessed. Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, pale
in her anger, washes all the air that rheumatic diseases
do abound. And thorough this distemperature, we see the seasons alter,
hoary headed frosts far in the fresh lap of the
crimson rose, and on old highamps than an icy crown.

An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds is as in
mock reset the spring, the summer, the child in autumn,
angry winter change their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
by their increase, now knows not which is which. And
this same progeny of evils comes from our debate, from

our dissension, we are their parents and original.

Speaker 3 (02:27):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 1 (02:37):
Hey you welcome to stuff to Blow your mind.

Speaker 2 (02:39):
My name is Robert Lamb and I'm Joe McCormick.

Speaker 1 (02:42):
I can't believe nine men's morris is filled up with mud.
It used to be a cool place.

Speaker 2 (02:46):
Yeah, I know. So we're back with our third and
final part in the series on the moons of the
planet Uranus, and I started today with a reading from uh,
that's actually it's a speech given by the character Titania,
the Queen of the Fairies, in William Shakespeare's play A
Midsummer Night's Dream. Now I've read that half just because

I loved that speech and I thought it was really cool,
but it also seemed to kind of resonant with our
subject matter today. So the speech in the play is
delivered by Titania to Oberon, king of the Fairies, describing
how the jealous feuding between the two of them has
had malicious effects on the weather and the very environment

of nature and the human world, because you know, when
fairies fight, it's not just bad vibes. The bad vibes
apparently become quite physical, and they take the form of floods, drought,
frostbitten winters, famine, disease, etc. And this struck me as
interesting in this case because of the ways that hundreds
of years ago, the behavior of planets and moons and

other objects up in the heavens was thought to affect
the weather and produce not just affect the weather, but
to produce the bad air that brings plague. So both
of the things kind of mentioned in this speech bad
weather and disease. And we've talked about numerous specific examples
of that in previous episodes, but one being that during

the Second Plague pandemic in thirteen forty eight, a convocation
of scholars from the medical faculty at the University of
Paris was assembled by King Philip the sixth of France
to determine the cause of the plague, and they concluded
it was because of the thirteen forty five conjunction of Mars,
Jupiter and Saturn in the House of Aquarius, which had

caused evil vapors to rise up from the earth and
breathe death into the cities of humankind. So the idea
of this direct causal connection between what the planets are doing,
what things in the sky are doing, and then weather
on earth and then disease. And this struck me because
in Shakespeare the behavior of Oberon and Titania is thought

to change the weather and bring disease, but this was
before those characters were also the names of actual heavenly bodies,
moons of the planet Uranus. In fact, that would have
been before the official discovery of Uranus as a planet
at all. But Titanya and Oberon are now both major
moons of Uranus. Those two were discovered by William Herschel

in seventeen eighty seven, the same guy who discovered Uranus
as a planet, though curiously I was just reading about this.
William Herschel also at the same time reported discovering several
other moons that were never confirmed by later astronomers, so
nobody ever found moons matching the orbits of these other

couple moons he described. Herschel Apparently, I don't know, he
wrote something down wrong or something, you know. He claimed
to have found some non existent moons in addition to
these real ones. But anyway, I wonder if if the
Uranian moons Oberon and Titania had been known about in
Shakespeare's day, they might also, I wonder, have been have

been blamed for making the green corn rot and filling
the Nine Men's moris up with mud and spreading the
rheumatic diseases and all that stuff.

Speaker 1 (06:14):
Yeah, yeah, it's it's interesting. Despite all of the shakespeare
references in the naming of the Iranian moons. I don't
believe Shakespeare ever references the god Uranus or Uranos in
his works. Could be a lot wrong about that. I'm
not a Shakespeare scholar. I'm just combining memory of Shakespeare

with some searches on some digital databases of his work.
All the other gods featured in our planetary lineup are
referenced numerous times in his plays, but never never Uranos,
and the same seems to be true of Alexander Pope,
which I guess this ultimately just speaks to the limited
or non existent role Uranas had in literature of the

times of these these writers, right.

Speaker 2 (07:01):
I guess he's just wasn't one of the flashiest gods,
you know. Yeah, yeah, But actually I was just thinking,
to come back on what I said a minute ago, I,
you know, wondering if the moons of another planet would
have been used in astrological explanations for weather patterns and disease.
Now that I think about it, I can't think of
a case where, then, at least that I'm familiar with,

where the moons of other planets were used to explain
that that. Maybe that's because like those moons of other
planets had only been known about since the time of Galileo,
but as far as I can recall, it's always invoking
the outer planets themselves and not their moons, of course,
apart from our own moon, which, according again to Titania,

is the governess of floods.

Speaker 1 (07:46):
Yeah, I love that, the governess of floods.

Speaker 2 (07:48):
You know, before I had ever seen or read Midsummer
Night's Dream and knew Oberon and Titania as characters here.
Before I even knew them as the names of moons
of Uranus that I recall, I actually knew them from
a different place. I knew them as part of a
spooky chant in a song my dad used to listen

to when I was younger, the line you have to
imagine this with several voices and a strange dissonant harmony
saying Jupiter and Saturn, Oberon, Miranda and Titania, Neptune Titan
stars can frighten, which is of course from the nineteen
sixty seven psychedelic space rock anthem Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd.

I think this song was written by syd Barrett, a
song that I think I have to admit is still
sort of always looping in the back of my head
when I think about space, when I picture the empty
landscapes of other planets and moons. It manages to capture
a feeling of space that is simultaneously very unsettling but

also so inviting. And it really helped me be excited
about space before I knew much about it, like seeing
it as this realm of mysteries that were thrilling to unveil.
So I'm not saying the effect would be the same
with all kids, but for me personally, this weird song
by Pink Floyd was a wonderful early science education tool,

not because it contains any actual like information or educational content.
It doesn't, but because it really made me want to
know more about what's out there.

Speaker 1 (09:23):
So you're saying Astronomy Domine was kind of your Star Wars?

Speaker 2 (09:26):
Is that what Star Wars was for you? I mean,
I love Star Wars too, I you know, wore out
the videotape.

Speaker 1 (09:31):
Yeah, I mean I get. When I think back on
just earliest idea things that got me excited about space,
I think they were mostly you know, space stories, Like
I remember really liking the black Hole from Disney, and
I had like a storybook and cassette of the black Hole.
Even though, of course, as we've mentioned on the show
before and maybe we'll get into again in the future,

you know, the black Hole contains very little that you
can take to the bank regarding actual information about this
about space and the nature of black holes.

Speaker 2 (10:01):
Well, I guess this is part of the song's psychedelic qualities.
But yeah, Astronomy domine I always felt it was. It
was scary in the best possible way. It was scary
in the way that it's like, you know, you want
to know what's behind the door, but you're you're frightened
to open it in a way that makes you just
you have to look even more.

Speaker 1 (10:20):
Hmmm. No, I know, having been hurt listened to part
of this song here, and I'm not super familiar with
Pink Floyd. You know, I know the big ones, of course,
but I haven't I've never done a deep dive into
their discography. Yeah, I see what you're saying about this.

Speaker 2 (10:33):
This track, this is early Pink Floyd. Most of the
Pink Floyd stuff people know is from a later period
of the band where they sound totally different. They're more
the kind of you know, I don't know what you
call it progressive classic rock. This is from their early
couple of albums that were more weird British psychedelic rock. Okay,
all right, but anyway, in the line of lyrics from

from the song you Hear You Hear Three Names, it's
oberon Miranda in Titanya. So I think we're still taking
the moons somewhat in order. Right, last in the previous episode,
we talked about the inner moons of Uranus, and now
we're going to be talking about the major moons.

Speaker 1 (11:11):
That's right, and we'll begin with Miranda here. Miranda's name
for Prospero's daughter in the Tempest. She's also the subject
of a pretty famous waterhouse painting. I included this for you, Joe.
I don't know, maybe I'm alone in this, but I
just remember seeing this one a lot. I feel like
this one. There were a lot of posters of this
on dorm rooms or something. I don't know.

Speaker 2 (11:33):
If I did see it, it didn't really make an impression,
but I like.

Speaker 1 (11:35):
It has sort of Gothic sensibility to it. I don't
think I've ever seen the actual painting. I'm not sure
where it is at any rate. It was discovered by
Gerald P. Kuiper on February sixteenth, nineteen forty eight, at
McDonald Observatory in Texas. It was the last moon of
the planet to be discovered prior to Voyager two, the
smallest and closest to the planet of the pre Voyager

two discovered moons of Uranus. Now. The composition here, like
all the larger moons, it's thought to consist mostly of
a roughly equal mix of water, ice, and silicate rock.
The significance is I've seen numerous descriptions referring to it
as a Frankenstein moon, which of course instantly sounds pretty
jazzy Frankenstein moon of seemingly mismatched landscapes and featuring Titanic

canyons thought to be twelve times as deep as the
Grand Canyon of Earth. In some cases. Its surface also
bears the mark of coroni, which are sound delicious what
they're found to be. They're found on the surface of
Venus as well. These like oval shaped geological markings caused
by upwellings of subsurface warm material. So Miranda is known

to or is thought to have frozen water ice on
its surface, and the corona here may have caused warm
ice rising to cause tectonic faults in the rock here.

Speaker 2 (13:00):
So you mentioned it has this peculiar, fascinating outer appearance.
I had a couple of I added a couple of
photos here to the outline so we could rub the
fur a bit to look at the different textures on Miranda.
Across much of the known surface, it does look a
lot like our moon. Like you can see sort of
swaths of gray landscape of rocks and soil, you know,

the very familiar looking dotted with that kind of fractal
vanishing pattern of craters. But then across some stretches of
the Moon's surface, it looks like a bear about the
size of the Sun, just like dug its claws in
and used it as a scratching post. Something absolutely tore
up the crust of this planet.

Speaker 1 (13:42):
Now, you know. Part of this is I'm primed by
being described as the Frankenstein Moon, but also looking at
these images of it, it makes me think of this
moon as a mad ball, which I don't think. Well,
they're apparently still around. I think they started in the
mid eighties and they were a toy when I was
a kid. But they are like these bouncy balls that
have these like textured monster heads, like ones of cyclops

ones like a meducer or something, and.

Speaker 2 (14:11):
I just looked it up. Yeah, okay, I think I've
seen these.

Speaker 1 (14:15):
Yeah, so it's kind of like if you're familiar with these,
and I think they're still around. They have a website,
so I think you can probably buy them somewhere. Maybe
they're not the hot thing with kids these days, but
at any rate, I look at this moon and I
think of mad balls.

Speaker 2 (14:29):
So I'm looking at an arrangement of six mad balls,
and five of them are some kind of monster I
don't know, like a like a one eyed, one horned,
purple people eater of some sort. And then but one
of them is just a baseball with an angry face.
It's just a baseball. Why do they got to put
a baseball in there? Even got the little seams with

the red thread, and I don't know, just.

Speaker 1 (14:51):
An angry baseball. I guess monster.

Speaker 2 (14:53):
Base I see what you're talking about, though, yet, Yes,
it is kind of like a mad ball. It has
very the different mismatched parts. It looks like it could
be you know, illustrated scarring or something. I don't know.
It's just like a hugely variable strange surface. So there
I mentioned the parts. Some just look kind of like

any moon you might imagine. Some look like the parts
where the bear dug its claws in. Other parts look
to me like you've ever seen the you know those
little zin gardens people have where they are like soft
patterns of parallel lines and raked into the sand. Yeah, yeah,
there are parts of the surface that look like that.
Here you see these little kind of I'm not implying

that they were left there by an actual being, but yeah,
it looks like just kind of parallel lines gently raked
into the surface, but of course with massive proportions. And
there are some places that show jagged ruptures and protrusions
off of the Moon's surface that are really just scraping space.
Like you can really see like a kind of a

point coming off of there. Rob you mentioned that some
of the canyons on Miranda are thought to be twelve
times as deep as the Grand Canyon on Earth. I
wanted to zoom in on one particular feature that I
found very interesting. Let's go to the Verona rupus. Verona
is I believe here a reference to Romeo and Juliet,

because again the Shakespeare names of Urines's moons, and so
Romeo and Juliet is set in the Italian city of Verona. Meanwhile,
Verona Rupus Rupus is a word used in planetary geology
to refer to extraterrestrial escarpments or cliffs. It's the Latin
word for cliff. So Raba included a photo for you

to look at of Verona rupas zoomed in. This is
an image that was featured by NASA and Michigan Tech's
Astronomy Picture of the Day site, and this photograph was
taken by No Surprise Voyager two, as all these close
up photos of Uranes's moons are. But what's really interesting
here is that you can see in the picture this

massive feature is not a gently sloping mountain side, but
a steep, sheer cliff. And what you can't tell from
the picture is the scale of this massive landscape feature.
According to the APOD write up, the drop from Verona
Rupus is thought to be about twenty kilometers deep. Now,

I've seen other estimates somewhere. I don't know exactly who's
the final authority on estimating the heights of features like
this from photos, but twenty kilometers is the estimate given here,
and for a point of comparison, they say that this
is in this case ten times the depth of the
Grand Canyon. For another one, I just looked up the

height of Mount Everest. That's about eight point eight kilometers
in height. So imagine a drop off more than double
the peak to ground height of Everest. But it's not
a slope, it's a cliff. It's a vertical cliff.

Speaker 1 (18:00):
Wow, that's incredible.

Speaker 2 (18:02):
I'm imagining the call avoid kind of thought patterns that
looking at a cliff of that size. Man, if you're
somebody with like krimophobia, you know, you get afraid of
sharp drop offs. I don't know, you can't even process it.
But another thing they point out is that, so you
imagine a future astronaut is somehow on the surface of Miranda,

and maybe they are suddenly they're cursed by Oberon and Titania,
you know, the fairy magic falls upon them and they
are made to jump the cliff. This source estimates that
it would take them about twelve minutes to fall to
the bottom, though the length of that fall is somewhat
stretched out because Miranda has relatively very low gravity compared

to Earth. But despite the lower gravity, the fall would
probably still probably would still hurt you.

Speaker 1 (18:54):
I mean, I guess in the future extreme base jumpers
might venture there and they're like robot avide hard bodies
and take a leap off, And in that case, I
guess you survived the fall because you're just back in
your actual body at the end of it. Yeah, always
safety precautions though, just a heap of robots at the
bottom though, just smashed down to a thin sheet.

Speaker 2 (19:18):
So what causes this chaotic patchwork landscape? There are a
couple of hypotheses. One appears to be the idea of collisions.
Basically that Miranda was actually somewhat smashed to pieces by
collision with a large object, but these pieces did not
fly off into deep space. They were still caught in

orbit around Uranus, and they were ultimately attracted to each
other by gravity and reformed into a moon once again.
But then you'd have the different pieces sort of fitting
together weirdly, explaining the patchy surface.

Speaker 1 (19:53):
Yeah, so a Miranda's a mess, but potentially she's a
work in progress.

Speaker 2 (19:57):
Yes, And if that were indeed the case, that sort
of reminds me of the whole thing about like why
planetary defense concepts you know, like protecting Earth from comets
and asteroids, don't tend to focus on trying to blow
up incoming asteroids. So you got an asteroid that's coming
toward Earth, you don't want to like, you know, nuke
its core and smash it to a million pieces like

in you know movies like Armageddon or something, because fragmenting
it into pieces, it potentially would just still hit Earth anyway,
like the pieces would hit Earth, or it might be
gravitationally attracted to itself reform and still hit Earth. So instead,
the better plan is to deflect its path. You want
to blow it off course, not blow it up.

Speaker 1 (20:38):
Yeahudget, nudget a little bit. Make sure it just gradually
goes off course far enough ahead of the injuring any
kind of danger zone.

Speaker 2 (20:47):
But another possible explanation for the weird mismatched surface of
Miranda is a not a collision and a reforming together,
but instead is like that Miranda is struck by like
large rocky objects or meteorites of some kind. These impacts
partially melt the ice that is underneath the surface of Miranda,

and then that melting from the heat of the impact
causes water to rise to the surface, icy water to
come up to the surface and then it re freezes
somewhat chaotically, giving rise to these strange patterns of different
types of surface texture.

Speaker 1 (21:25):
Well, however, it comes together. Definitely worth pulling up an
image of this so you'll see what we're talking about here,
because it's, uh, visually, it's I think one of, if
not the most notable of the Uranian moons. All right,

let's move on to the next one. The next one
is aerial and this one, this one pulls double duty
because it is a spirit who serves Prospero in the tempest,
but it is also a sylph or a sylphid from
Alexander Pope's the Rape of the Lock. This is like

an invisible air elemental being that is brought up in
the works of Paracelsus.

Speaker 2 (22:14):
Oh that's interesting.

Speaker 1 (22:15):
Yeah, So anyway, double duty. This one's in both camps
of Pope and Shakespeare. Discovered by English astronomer William Lassel
in eighteen fifty one. The composition, you know, same as
Miranda and other larger moons, but carbon dioxide has also
been detected, and the significance here it's tidally locked like
our Moon, youngest surface of the moons of Uranus and

the most recent geologically active.

Speaker 2 (22:40):
So like Earth and Knits Moon, if you were able
to stand on the surface of Uranus and look up
at Ariel, I mean you can't stand on the surface
of Uranus, but if you were to look up at Ariel,
you would always see the same side of it facing
the planet right. So, to invoke another Pink Floyd reference, there,
there would not actually be a permanent dark side of
the Moon on aerial but there would be an always
facing away side of the Moon, the far side.

Speaker 1 (23:03):
All right. Moving on to the next one. Umbriel, also
discovered by William Lassel in eighteen fifty one. This one
is named after an evil spirit in Alexander Pope's poem
Rape of the Lock significance here it has a mysterious
ring on its surface, revealed by Voyager two, which might
be due to frost deposits from an impact crater. It's

ancient and dark, as the shadowy name suggests. Just a
couple of quick quotes here from the poem by Pope. First,
Umbriel a dusky, melancholy sprite as ever sullied the fair
face of light, and then later on there's another nice
little snippet here. But Umbriel hateful gnome forbears, not so

he breaks the vial, whence the sorrows flow hateful No.
I like it.

Speaker 2 (23:52):
Well, you know the name is fitting because so it
mentions he's the enemy of light basically, And that's also
true if you look up about Umbriel the moon. Because
Umbriel is the darkest of all of Uranus's major moons,
it reflects very little light. You mentioned that bright ring

a minute ago, the kind of mysterious bright ring in
a crater. I added a photo of this for you
to look at here, Rob. I think it's interesting. So
the contrast with the glowing white ring is quite profound.
That I guess that seems especially true because Umbriel is
the darkest of the major moons. And unfortunately, the images

we have from Voyager two do not capture the ring
looking down, so you're not looking at it head on. Instead,
we see we can just barely tell it's a ring,
but we can see it at sort of the edge
of the hemisphere that Voyager two was able to photograph,
so it's right there on the cusp of the planet
like a little halo. The moon as a whole is

about twelve hundred kilometers in diameter, and the white ring
here is about one hundred and forty kilometers itself, so
more than ten percent of the width of the Moon,
and scientists are not sure what caused the ring to appear.
But Rob you mentioned the frost deposits in the last
part of the series, I referenced an article by the
planetary scientist Amy Simon, and she explains a little further

in that article that it might be like a layer
of ice on a crater floor that is lying exposed
to the sunlight. For some reason, something knocked what might
have otherwise been covering it off, so it's exposed and
reflecting much more light than the surface around it. But
this tickled something in my memory, and I realized it
was reminding me of when we discussed the bright white

spot in the center of a crater on another object
in the Solar System, on the dwarf planet Series. So
Series is not a planet on its own, it is
the largest object in the asteroid belt, the biggest asteroid
known as a dwarf planet. On the surface of Series,
there are actually a number of different bright spots known

as faculi, and there's one I've got for you here
to look at, Rob. So it's in the middle of
a crater. The crater is called the Okater crater, and
the bright spot, this is the most famous of the
bright spots, is known as the Cerealia facula. So it's
right there in the middle of the crater almost like

a I don't know what to call it. It's just like,
you know, it's like a bull's eye. It's a bright
dot in the middle of this depression in the surface
of Ceres. And these bright spots are thought to be
caused in this case on series by the presence of
ice or salts rising to the surface from below. So
there might be there's like sort of a mantle or

a subsurface layer of briny solution kind of water with
salts in it, and maybe some kind of impact caused
that that stuff to well up. So the water the
salts came up, and then the ice that's there or
the salts that are left once the water is gone,
leave this area of higher reflectivity than the surrounding surface.

So it forms this little, you know, bull's eye in
the middle of the crater.

Speaker 1 (27:14):
Interesting. Yeah, Now, now as for just the ring on Umbriel,
it's also it also makes me think of like an
intentional bald spot at the top of the head, like
a monk's tonsure, you know.

Speaker 2 (27:25):
Oh yeah, yeah, I can see that it's just sitting
right up there.

Speaker 1 (27:28):
Yeah yeah.

Speaker 2 (27:30):
But we spoke earlier of the fairy royalty, Titanya and Oberon.
Should we set them a bickering Yeah yeah.

Speaker 1 (27:37):
Next up is Titania, the queen of the fairies in
A Midsummer Night's Dream is the namesake discovered by William
Herschel this moon in seventeen eighty seven. It's the largest
moon of Uranus, with a diameter of roughly one thousand
miles or sixteen one hundred kilometers. Voyager two images revealed
that it was at some point geologically active reflective material,

possibly frost and here sun facing valley walls. And then
we have Oberon. Oberon is named for the king of
the Fairies and midsummer Night's Dream, also discovered by William
Herschel in seventeen eighty seven. It's the second largest moon
of Uranus. It's heavily cratered and has at least one
large mountain. This large mountain towers I believest six kilometers

and is unnamed but is sometimes called the Limb Mountain.
The outmost of the major moons is Oberon. Many of
its craters have an unidentified dark material in them.

Speaker 2 (28:31):
That was something else mentioned in that Amy Simon article
that a lot of the moons of Uranus have substances
on their surface which cause darkening, and it's not known
exactly what that is.

Speaker 1 (28:41):
Yeah. Now, another interesting note about some of these moons
we just discussed here is the potential the possible potential
for life on the major moons of Uranus. Life on
Uranus itself seems extremely unlikely based on everything I've been
looking at life as we know it anyway, Chris is
always the caveat. For instance, just one case of this,

the long standing risk of contaminating Urinus or Neptune with
terrestrial microbes seems to be essentially nil. Based on scientific
opinions NASA and so forth. It is, by most estimates,
likely a dead world. Now. I did run across the
nineteen eighty eight paper by G. Bochkarov in Bioastronomy titled

in the Biostronomy Next Steps Bad There it's titled is
Urinus the most promising planet for SETI? This paper seems
to mostly focus on the presence of water drops and
electrical discharges in the planet's atmosphere as a possible precursor
to life. Still, most sources seem to say, now Urinus
is a no go for life as we know it.

There are other places that we can look to in
our Solar system that are far better candidates for exploration.
But any right, the idea of it being a dead world.
We can't say the same for the moons. We can't
say the same for all of the Uranian moons.

Speaker 2 (30:00):
I like how the title of the paper though, is
not just like is it worth looking at Urinus for
for SETI, it's saying is it the most promising planet?
That seems like the answer is no, No, it's not.

Speaker 1 (30:13):
It's it's interesting. You know, we often have to think
back to, you know, to like the reality of putting
missions together for these various various moons and planets. It's
like you've got to really build up the hype, you know,
You've got to you got to make the case why
is this worth all of this money, this time, this investment. Uh,
And you know there's a strong case to be made

for for any destination in our solar system to you know,
to broaden our understanding of of you know, the world
surrounding our star. But you know, you got to make
that case. You got to believe, and maybe maybe you
got to you got to push a little hard.

Speaker 2 (30:47):
Well. Yeah, And even if you're looking at places that
are not themselves, at least as far as we can
tell very good candidates for discovering life, they can still
usually teach you a lot about the dynamics and life
history of planets in general, which is something that we
do need to always understand better if we want to
know where best to look for life.

Speaker 1 (31:05):
Yeah. Yeah, So the most recent paper that I was
running across about Uranian moons in life. This comes from
a December twenty twenty two paper in the Journal of
Geophysical Research by Castillo Roguez at All. They point out
that Titania, Oberon, Aerial, and Umbril may have salty oceans

beneath their frozen surfaces, opening up the possibility for life
as we know it. They base their findings on three factors.
First fall observational constraints about each moon's internal and geological evolution. Secondly,
the current level of tidal heating, and third thermal models,

They write, quote, we predict that if the Moon's preserved
liquid until present, it is likely in the form of
residual oceans less than thirty kilometers thick on aerial Umbril
and less than fifty kilometers in Titan and Oberon. Now,
they stress that liquid preservation depends on a number of factors,
and ultimately we just can't know for certain until we

look closer. Miranda, however, they say, is unlikely to boast
any water unless there was some manner of tidal heating
there quote a few tens of millions of years ago.
They also point out that thermal metamorphism could create a
late second generation ocean in Titania and Oberon. In either case,
it's also possible that liquid on these moons, if present,

is preserved by anti freeze in the form of something
like ammonia and chlorides. The downside to this possibility, they stress,
is that the electrical conductiveness may be close to zero
in such waters if they're there, making it impossible for
future probes to detect them via magnetic field generation. Also,
we'd be talking about temperatures close to the lower limit

for metabolic activity and terrestrial microbe reproduction based on life
as we know it. So the author's stress that it
might not really be a high priority liquid environment for astrobiologist.
It's no Enceladus that seems to remain, you know, the
most interesting lunar ocean for astrobiologists. You know, but we

can't rule out life on the uranium moons. More more research,
more inquiry is required.

Speaker 2 (33:22):
Oh is Enceladus now considered a better candidate than Europa?
I would have assumed Europa was still on top. I
guess I don't really know.

Speaker 1 (33:29):
Well, I don't want to get into the beef between
Enceladus and Europa, but either of these, it's my understanding,
would would ultimately be better placed if you had to
place hard bets on it, which essentially you are if
you're deciding to to you know, potentially launch any kind
of like a mission, flyby probe, et cetera. So yeah,
that seemed to be the basic take home from the
paper is that, like, there's a possibility it's not, but

it's not. Maybe the they're not the best odds of
the moons in our solar system.

Speaker 2 (33:57):
Maybe not, But wouldn't that be a good surprise You
look at all of the higher tier candidates, Europa, Enceladus, whatever,
and nothing's there but way out in the ice giants.
Those moons are cranking with life.

Speaker 1 (34:09):
Yeah, I mean, it's always in the last place you look, right.

Speaker 2 (34:21):
All right, Miranda, Umbriel, Titanya, and Oberon. Those are the
four major moons. But that doesn't exhaust the list, right,
We've got a bunch of so called irregular moons and
other stuff going on.

Speaker 1 (34:33):
Yeah. Yeah, we're gonna venture into the outskirts here, Like
we're leaving Las Vegas proper and we're down into the
into the area surround in Vegas. We're getting into the
irregular moons of Uranus. According to NASA, the composition of
the moons outside the orbit of Oberon remains largely unknown,
but they are likely captured asteroids. These are all positioned

far beyond the orbit of Oberon, and there are nine
known irregular moons of Uranus. All Right, we're going to
start with Francisco. This is named after a shipwrecked nobleman
in the tempest, discovered in two thousand and one by
Cavalleras at All at Chile Sero Tololo Inter American Observatory.
It has a retrograde orbit. It is the innermost of

the irregular moons, but it orbits at about four point
three million kilometers from the planet itself.

Speaker 2 (35:22):
I do not recall what the character Francisco and the
Tempest does, but you know who I do recall is Caliban.

Speaker 1 (35:28):
Yeah, the sort of a monstrous character from The Tempest,
who was also the inspiration for the character Calibos in
the movie Clash of the Titans, which we discussed on
Weird House Cinema.

Speaker 2 (35:40):
A little bit of crossing of the streams there. I
got your Shakespeare in my Greek mythology.

Speaker 1 (35:45):
Yeah. So this one was discovered by Gladman at All
in nineteen ninety seven at the Palomar Observatory in California.
Significance here. It has a retrogade orbit that is also
inclined and eccentric, thought to be the second largest irregular moon.
It is also far out and likely an independent body

captured by the planet's gravity. All right, up next we
have Steffano. This is named after King Alonzo's butler in
The Tempest. It's been a while since I've actually seen
The Tempest or certainly read it, so I don't remember
the significance of King Alonzo's butler.

Speaker 2 (36:21):
I also have no memory of what's going on with
the butler.

Speaker 1 (36:24):
Yeah, but at any rate, he gets the moon named
after him. Discovered in nineteen ninety nine by Gladman at
All at the Canada France Hawaii Telescope at the Monachia
Observatory on the island of Hawaii. They discovered Steffano, Prospero,
and Setebas at the same time. Significance here basically just
retrograde orbit similar in composition to Caliban, is likely.

Speaker 2 (36:45):
All right.

Speaker 1 (36:46):
Next we have Trinculo, named after the jester from The Tempest.

Speaker 2 (36:51):
Mm hmm.

Speaker 1 (36:52):
Yeah. This one discovered by Holman at All in two
thousand and one at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Canada
using the Sero Tolo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. This one
has a retrograde orbit, all right. All right. The next
one is Psychoax. This is named after the which mother
of Caliban in The Tempest. This is an off screen

character though, that dies before the play, so it's just
like a name drop. Discovered by Gladman at All in
nineteen ninety seven at the Palamar Observatory in California. Discovered
at the same time as Caliban, thus the naming. The
main significance here. It's the largest of the irregular moons
and it also has a retrograde orbit. Now it's hard
to beat that name. That's a cool name. So the
next one doesn't even try. The next one is Margaret.

This is named after a character from Much Ado About Nothing,
discovered by Scott S. Shepherd and David C. Jullet In
with the Subaru eight point two millimeter reflector at the
Monarchy Observatory in two thousand and three. The significance here
we have a pro grade orbit for once.

Speaker 2 (37:54):
Oh is this the first one of the irregulars?

Speaker 1 (37:57):
Yeah? Yeah, they're all retrograde thus far. Okay, now the
next one, this one has as a pretty We've mentioned
him already. But finally we have a moon named after Prospero,
the sorcerer from the Tempest.

Speaker 2 (38:11):
I know this isn't true, but I'm going to tell
myself that it's actually named after Prospero, the Vincent Price
character in the Mask of the Red Death.

Speaker 1 (38:21):
Now here's an interesting little side bet. You know we
discussed or this. I believe this was Christian and I
that did much older episode about the Elizabethan poly math
and a culpist, John d There's this theory that the
historic individual of John d may have been partial inspiration
for Shakespeare's Prospero, and he also seems to have influenced

John Dee that seems to have influenced our ideas concerning
Merlin as well, and ultimately, like the Fantasy Wizard character
as a whole, that.

Speaker 2 (38:53):
Seems true to me, though it doesn't exactly match, because
the Fantasy Wizard character does not get obsessed with trying
to talk to angels.

Speaker 1 (39:01):
Yeah yeah, yeah. D's a full story, has a lot
of strange turns in it, and you know, he gets
caught up in some in a few messes. Interestingly, his
occult interests include the angel Uriel, the supposed to be
the angel of Wisdom, who's said in some cases to
have worn Noah of the flood and revealed astrological secrets

of the stars and planets to Enoch. Uriel is synonymous
with Ariel, which we already discussed as a major Uranian moon.
Interesting now, Prospero the Uranian moon setting all that aside,
is just discovered by Gladman at All in nineteen ninety
nine at the Canada France Hawaii Telescope at Monarchy Observatory
on the island of Hawaii. They and again they also

discovered Stefano, Prospero, and Setebos at the same time. It
has a retrograde orbit. Orbital details suggests it shares common
origin with Serrax and Setibas, but its gray colorations suggest otherwise.
So it's from what I was looking at it sounds
like there's still some you know, some unknowns about it
for sure. Now I personally found it kind of amusing,

you know, looking back again at the Shakespeare, it's amusing
to see that Prospero in the Tempest mentions moons and
the god Neptune, but of course not Uranus. Obviously not
the planet, but also not the god. But there is
this wonderful little bit here that I wanted to read.
Prospero says, ye elves of hills brooks, standing lakes and groves,

and ye that on the sands with printless foot, do
chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him when he
comes back, You dimmy puppets that by moonshine, do the
green sour ringlets make where all the U not bites,
and you whose pastime is to make midnight mushrooms, that
rejoice to hear the solemn curfew by whose aid weak masters?

Though ye be I have bedimmed.

Speaker 2 (40:55):
Speak for yourself. I don't make midnight mushrooms. You know.
I'm struck how And if you look at a passage
from Shakespeare that is a reference to a I don't know,
a fairy or magical creature, or someone doing sorcery, the
language employed could easily pass for lyrics to Space Rock
of later centuries.

Speaker 1 (41:17):
Yeah, all right, the next one is Seti Boss. We've
alluded to already. The Shakespearean connection is that Cigaax and
Caliban are said to worship Seti Boss in the tempest.
But the name was prior to this, it seems, the
name of an actual Patagonian god. I was reading up

on this a little bit. Shakespeare apparently took the name
from Richard Eden's sixteenth century accounts of Magellan's experiences with
Patagonian natives, which, of course, we always have to take
an enormous grain of salt in such accounts, you know,
concerning some of the finer details of people's beliefs and practices.

But This is acording to a work I was looking
at by Charles Frey titled The Tempest in the New World,
getting into these various connections between Shakespeare's The Tempest and
information that was coming out of exploration of the New
World of the Americas. In Eden's work, he writes of
natives who quote cried upon the great devil Setiboss to

help them again you know the grain of salt, to
say the least concerning some of these accounts of other
peoples and cultures and their their practices. Also, poet Robert
Browning would later write a poem inspired by The Tempest,
Caliban upon Setibas. Also of note, the giant antarctic octopus

is classified as Megaladone Setibas, which I thought was interesting.
But anyway, Setibas the moon discovered by Gladman at All
in nineteen ninety nine. Again this was the Canada, France
Hawaii telescope, and again they discovered the Stefano, Prospero and
Setibas at the same time, retrograde orbit one of the
farthest moons more than eleven million miles or seventeen million

kilometers out.

Speaker 2 (43:05):
Well, I guess that about does it for our trip
to Uranus and exploration of the moons.

Speaker 1 (43:11):
Yeah, yeah, it's been fun. Most of these I really
wasn't that familiar with. And again, this is unlike the
Jupiter and Saturn. We actually could take time to just
go through them blow by blow, even if there's not
much to know about them currently, you know, given our
current knowledge of the Uranian satellite system. But still pretty
fun to explore. I also enjoyed looking into some of

the namesakes, because yeah, there's some Shakespeare plays. I'm more
up on some of these, even like Midsummer Night's Stream.
I feel like I like intentionally didn't learn much about
it in school, like I thought I was. I thought
I was too cool and dark for Midsummer Night's Dream.
I was like, you know, give me, I gotta have Macbeth.
I can't down my time for Midsummer Night Stream. So
you know, I ultimately cheated myself out of out of

some goodness there.

Speaker 2 (43:56):
Well, I'm still reeling from the way you discouraged Margaret,
and I won't have you speak that way about the
irregular moon Margaret. In fact, who are you to say
Margaret is irregular? I demand satisfaction.

Speaker 1 (44:09):
We'll see about upgrading her, see if we can make
her a regular moon. Yeah, all right, well we're going
to go ahead and close this episode out here. Let
us know what you think. If you have thoughts about
you know, that's any of the actual planetary lunar stuff
that we've discussed in these episodes, or if you lean
the other way and you have stuff you want to
add about the mythological or literary inspirations for the various

namings of the Uranian moon, So yeah, write in about that.
We'd love to hear from you. And if you want
us to keep going. If you were like, yes, let's
get to Neptune and talk about the moons of Neptune,
let's do it sooner rather than later, let us know.
Or if you are like, I want to go to Neptune,
but I think you should wait a year or two
like you've been doing between lunar episodes, then that's fair too.

Either way. Let us know. Just a reminder that core
episodes of Stuff to Blow Your Mind publish the Stuff
to Blow Your Mind podcast feed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yeah,
they are primarily a science podcast, and that's where you'll
find those core science episodes on Mondays we do listener mail,
on Wednesdays we do a short form artifact or monster
fact episode, and on Fridays we set aside most serious
concerns to just talk about a weird film on Weird

House Cinema.

Speaker 2 (45:17):
Here's thanks to our audio producer JJ Posway. If you
would like to get in touch with us with feedback
on this episode or any other, to suggest a topic
for the future, or just to say hello, you can
email us at contact stuff to Blow your Mind dot com.

Speaker 3 (45:38):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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