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Uranus May Have Two Hidden Moons

Oct 24, 2016 10:28 AM EDT
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The planet Uranus is another interesting object in the Solar System because of its strange rings. But a recent study suggests that it's not the only surprising thing about the planet as there were signs of two hidden moons uncovered.

A sighting of wavy pattern on the rings of Uranus suggests that there might be two very small satellites that haven't been discovered before, orbiting near the planet.

Unlike Mars or even the dwarf planet Pluto in the Kuiper Belt, there are not a lot of information about Uranus available today. The Voyager 2 spacecraft once visited the icy planet in 1986. Other Earth-based equipment and telescopes are also being used to observe and understand the planet even better.

Uranus has this slight tilt on its side causing decade-long seasons that are subjecting parts or sides of the planet to extreme weather conditions. Uranus also has many identified moons that amount to 27.  Voyager 2 was responsible for identifying 10 of these moons.

Compared to Saturn, the rings around planet Uranus are different. The Voyager 2 managed to observe the rings by capturing the amount of brightness or light that passed through the rings to identify how much materials were present.

"When you look at this pattern in different places around the ring, the wavelength is different - that points to something changing as you go around the ring. There's something breaking the symmetry," Matt Hedman, a planetary scientist from the University of Idaho said in a statement.

Hedman, together with another planetary scientist, Rob Chancia, analyzed the Voyager 2 data and were able to identify surprising information based on the science gathered by the spacecraft. Their findings will be published in the Astronomical Journal.

Based on the new interpretation, there are two "moonlet wakes" observed. Moonlet wakes are disruptions in the ring caused by tugging of the moon that then releases dust particles and disrupts the order of the rings. The appearance of marks could be a sign that there are indeed tiny hidden moons orbiting near the planet.

"We haven't seen the moons yet, but the idea is the size of the moons needed to make these features is quite small, and they could have easily been missed," Hedman said in a statement. "The Voyager images weren't sensitive enough to easily see these moons."

The moons are more likely very small at nine miles in diameter. The moons are believed to possess dark surfaces making them evade detection.

 

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