Everyone knowns that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. But a lot of planets have a north – and so do a lot of moons.
Could Father Christmas’s workshop be located not in the Arctic, but on one of the icy moons in our Solar System?
These frozen worlds, like Enceladus and Europa, are eternal winter wonderlands of ice and snow and, according to David Brown from Warwick’s Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability, are our best chance of finding life outside of Earth.
Not only are the world’s underground oceans rich in liquid water and hydrocarbons, key ingredients to life as we know it, the thick icy crust could help protect potential life from harmful radiation.
It has also been posited that the ocean floors could be covered in hydrothermal vents, which are hot spots for life here on Earth.
But such worlds would not make a cosy home for Santa and his elves.
Though Saturn’s moon Enceladus has the required picturesque Narnian landscape for a Christmas workshop, the noon temperature reaches a frigid high of -198ºC.
“Living in a never-ending landscape of snow and ice all year might not seem particularly inviting, even for Santa!” says Brown.
“But these moons represent some of the best chances of life beyond Earth in the Solar System, and are environments that we’re very interested in exploring.”
The frozen moons of Saturn were extensively investigated by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, but unfortunately failed to find any traces of reindeer, suggesting that the system is not home to Santa’s base of operations.
Alternatively, the workshop could be located on one of the many moons of Jupiter.
As Jupiter is only 588 million km from Earth at its closest approach (compared to Saturn, which only gets within 1.2 billion km) it makes it a far more convenient spot for a delivery depot.
However the intense radiation around Jupiter would no doubt provide a health and safety nightmare for Santa and his sleigh team.
The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) due for launch in 2022 will investigate these worlds and will detect any signs of present making activity in the system.
One possible solution could be that Saint Nicholas is in fact ensconced on an asteroid with a period that brings its close to Earth every year on 24 December.
Such an asteroid would have to be small to have avoided detection up until now, but initiatives such as the B612 Foundation and Asteroid Day are campaigning to increase the search for such near-Earth objects.
As mankind ventures further into the Solar System, it is likely that Santa’s hidden home will not remain secret much longer.