Re-analysis of Voyager 2 images show that Uranus has two more moons
Scientists believe they have discovered two small, never-before-seen moons orbiting planet Uranus.
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After revisiting the data obtained from Voyager 2 spacecraft, a team of planetary researchers have detected what may be the evidence of two previously undiscovered moons lurking within the system of the gas giant.
Uranus is the third biggest planet in our solar system and like other gas giants; it also has a ring system. Though, its ring system is less visible and perhaps less dramatic than Saturn's system. Uranus has 27 natural satellites, which is far fewer than its neighboring planets Jupiter and Saturn, 67 and 62 respectively. Uranus’ small size could be a reason for its limited number of moons. Another reason could be the lack of investigation as most of the information about Uranus has come from NASA’s spacecraft Voyager 2 during its historic 1986 flyby while the rest of the observations are made by ground-based telescopes.
Researchers from University of Idaho, Moscow have reexamined the same old data provided by Voyager 2 and detected wavy patterns in two of its rings, Alpha and Beta, which are possibly caused by the gravitational tug of moons lying outside both the rings.
“These patterns may be wakes from small moonlets orbiting exterior to these rings.” Authors wrote in the study.
According to New Scientist, the putative moons are really tiny, no bigger than 4 to 14 kilometers in diameter and are probably dark colored like rest of the satellites found in the region. Though, the discovery of the moons is by no means a straightforward matter and it requires further analysis to confirm their existence.
“Our attempts to visually detect the moonlets are not exhaustive, but given the small predicted size of the α and β, moonlets, a convincing detection may not be possible in the Voyager 2 images,” said authors.
“Future earth-based observations may be more likely to detect these moons.”
Researchers from SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, are planning to examine Uranus through Hubble Space Telescope, which has already spot five of the Pluto’s moon.