Uranus may have two undiscovered moons: Study
Uranus may have two tiny, previously undiscovered moons orbiting near two of the planet’s rings, researchers using data from NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft has found.
Rob Chancia, a doctoral student at the University of Idaho in the US, spotted key patterns in the rings while examining decades-old images of Uranus’ icy rings taken by Voyager 2, which flew by the planet 30 years ago. He noticed the amount of ring material on the edge of the alpha ring – one of the brightest of Uranus’ multiple rings – varied periodically. A similar, even more promising pattern occurred in the same part of the neighbouring beta ring.
“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.
Researchers analysed radio occultations – made when Voyager 2 sent radio waves through the rings to be detected back on Earth – and stellar occultations, made when the spacecraft measured the light of background stars, which helps show how much material they contain.