Two unseen moons may circle Uranus

Uranus image from Hubble Telescope

Newly identified clumps in the rings of Uranus, seen in this false-color image from the Hubble Space Telescope, might be created by two undiscovered moons, a new study suggests.

NASA, E. Karkoschka/Univ. of Arizona

Two more teeny moons might be lurking around Uranus, in addition to the 27 we already know about. Fluctuations in the density of two of the planet’s dark rings, seen in radio data from the 1986 flyby of the Voyager 2 spacecraft, could be caused by unseen moonlets, astronomers Robert Chancia and Matthew Hedman, both at the University of Idaho in Moscow, report online October 9 at arXiv.org.

Both moons are probably just 4 to 14 kilometers wide and would be very difficult to detect in Voyager 2 images, the researchers report. New observations with ground-based telescopes might have better luck.

headshot of Associate News Editor Christopher Crockett

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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