Two New Moons in Uranus’ Rings Uncovered

By Brian Ang Oct 19, 2016 05:40 AM EDT
Uranus's Rings May Be Coddling Moons
An image of Ariel, a moon of Uranus. Voyager 2. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

It has long been believed that the planet Uranus has 27 moons. That figure may have to change based on recent investigations.

The number of natural satellites around the cold and windy celestial body has come to fruition in 1986 during the Voyager 2 fly-by. Compared to Saturn and Jupiter, which have 62 and 67 moons, respectively, the lesser quantity may be attributed to the smaller frame of Uranus.

Researchers now believe that a couple of extra satellites are somewhat hiding within the planet's icy rings. It is possible that the moons are closely circling Uranus which explains why it is difficult to find them.

This investigation can probably lead to a revelation that the seventh planet from the sun has more natural satellites than previously studied. Considering that Uranus has been less explored unveils a perception that more are cloaked along the planet's orbit.

In contrast to Jupiter and Saturn, which have the Juno and the Cassini space vessels circling them, Uranus has none to monitor it. In fact, only a single spacecraft have taken a close look at the planet.

Based on NASA's Voyager 2 data, a couple of wavy patterns along the windy planet's icy rings are present. The Alpha and the Beta formations may indicate the moon presence.

According to researchers Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman, it is probable that the patterns exhibit gravitational pull which kept the moons under the radar. Judging that these satellites are both dark and small, a degree of difficulty should be considered when viewing them. Another contributing factor that keeps the moons under wraps is the presence of Uranus's rings which exist like shadows.

In line with this, Mark Showalter of the California-based Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) intends to study data from the Hubble Space Telescope in order to find out if the moons indeed exist or if other similar celestial bodies are orbiting the planet.



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