OCT 27, 2016 6:34 AM PDT

Astronomers Discover Evidence for More 'Moons' Orbiting Uranus

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

While the Juno probe is investigating the conditions surrounding the neighborhood of Jupiter and the Cassini probe is spying on what it’s like around Saturn, some scientists are still scavenging through three decade-old information from the Voyager missions to learn more about Uranus, the last of the three known gassy planets in our Solar System.
 

Uranus may have two hidden 'moonlets,' as data from the planet's rings reveal.

 Image Credit: NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona)

Recent findings discovered by researchers from the University of Idaho that were shared this week by NASA, reveal that the Uranian system may contain more moons than previously thought. The moons in the Uranian system are very hard to see because they’re made of very dark rock and reflect little light, but scientists believe the clues can be seen in the planet’s rings.
 
Not only are Uranus’ rings thinner than they would typically be for a planet like Uranus, but the researchers have also uncovered notable oddities in the rings that seem to follow certain patterns. The oddities are seen in both the alpha and beta rings and occur in the same places, suggesting that a gravitational tug from an object around 2-9 miles in diameter is to blame.
 
The team observed the periodic changes in Uranus’ rings using both radio waves and background light as measured by the Voyager mission. Both seem to support the hypothesis that something is there.
 
"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," said Matt Hedman, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Idaho and co-author of the study, which has been accepted for review by The Astronomical Journal.
 
At the estimated size, these would be the smallest moons Uranus has, and they’re so small that they wouldn’t even really be called moons; instead, they’d be known as moonlets. As a result, the so-called deformities in Uranus’ rings are known as moonlet wakes.
 
"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. "The Voyager images weren't sensitive enough to easily see these moons."
 
Despite their work, someone else is going to have to use high-power space telescopes to try to find the so-called moonlets. The data from Voyager isn’t crisp enough to come up with solid evidence, so all we have to go by right now is circumstantial evidence and a hunch.
 
It should be interesting to see what future space exploration holds for Uranus.
 
Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 15, 2020
Space & Astronomy
This Drop Tower Simulates Near-Zero Gravity On Earth
JUN 15, 2020
This Drop Tower Simulates Near-Zero Gravity On Earth
It’s almost impossible to replicate the effects of zero gravity here on Earth, and that’s one of the reasons ...
JUL 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
JUL 06, 2020
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
Fast radio bursts are intense pulses of energy that come from light years away, popping fir a few milliseconds before di ...
JUL 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Active Volcanoes Discovered on Venus
JUL 26, 2020
Active Volcanoes Discovered on Venus
New research has identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that are thought to have been active recently.
SEP 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Could There Be Life on Venus?
SEP 10, 2020
Could There Be Life on Venus?
Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system, reaching 465 degrees Celcius- a temperature hot enough to melt lead. Wh ...
SEP 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Solving the Mystery of Jupiter's Astonishing Storms
SEP 28, 2020
Solving the Mystery of Jupiter's Astonishing Storms
Hurricanes don't only happen on Earth; the giant planet Jupiter is also home to swirling storms. On Jupiter, however, mu ...
NOV 04, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Missing Link Between Fast Radio Bursts & Magnetars Found in Our Galaxy
NOV 04, 2020
Missing Link Between Fast Radio Bursts & Magnetars Found in Our Galaxy
A neutron star is born when a massive star dies out in a supernova, leaving its collapsed and incredibly dense core rema ...
Loading Comments...