Space & Astronomy
Two 'moonlets' found in orbit around Uranus
By T.K. Randall
October 18, 2016 · 5 comments
Not a lot is known about the enigmatic gas giant Uranus. Image Credit: NASA
30-year-old data from the Voyager 2 spacecraft has revealed the presence of two hidden moons.
Despite the fact that it has been over three decades since Voyager 2 swept past Uranus on its historic journey through the solar system, scientists studying the data that it collected are still managing to make new discoveries about the planet and its army of small moons.
The third largest world in our solar system, Uranus is a gas giant planet located far out beyond the orbit of Saturn. It has 27 moons and even has its own ring system, albeit a rather faint one.
Now two scientists from the University of Idaho's Moscow campus who have been studying the original Voyager 2 data believe that they have identified distinctive wavy patterns in two of these rings which indicate the presence of two additional dark-colored moons orbiting nearby.
"These patterns may be wakes from small moonlets orbiting exterior to these rings," the pair, Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman, wrote in a research paper detailing the discovery.
"Not only are Uranus' rings dark, so are most of the little satellites that are in that region."
While the discovery of the two new moons has yet to be confirmed, it is hoped that the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to pick them up during observations of Uranus in the near future.
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