Uranus as an Ice Giant: Observations and models show us that the interiors of the Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune are fundamentally different from their Gas Giant siblings Jupiter and Saturn, from the different proportions of rock and ice to the configuration of their planetary magnetic fields. Uranus has the smallest self-luminosity of all the planets, potentially related to catastrophic events early in the planet’ history, which also may explain Uranus’ large obliquity. Uranus’ atmosphere is subject to extreme seasonal forcing making it unique in the Solar System. Uranus Pathfinder will provide crucial measurements to understand the interior and atmosphere of Ice Giant planets and the generation of magnetic fields inside planets.
An Ice Giant Planetary System: Uranus has a rich environment of planetary rings and natural satellites which represent a rich source of information on the origins and evolution of the Solar System. The rings are unlike those at the other giant planets and the natural satellites show an array of cryovolcanic features. Uranus Pathfinder will reveal the near-unexplored uranian satellites in detail for the first time and will provide a unique environment to challenge our understanding of planetary rings with wide astrophysical interest.
An Asymmetrical Magnetosphere: The large obliquity of Uranus and tilted magnetic dipole produces a substantial but highly irregular magnetosphere unlike that of any other planets explored to date. This rapidly reconfiguring magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere system with a highly asymmetric magnetic field will challenge our ideas of how magnetospheres work.