New Delhi: Scientists and astronomers often visit the archives of the data beamed back by the various space probes, to collect data that would provide an insight into the evolution of the universe as well as of the planets.
This time, scientists decided to rustle through the data collected by Voyager 2, which conducted a study of the outer planets, including Saturn, Uranus and finally, Neptune.
On re-examining data delivered by Voyager 2, astronomers came across a startling discovery. Detecting wavy patterns in two of Uranus’ dark system of rings, astronomers believe there is an indication of two undiscovered moons.
Uranus follows a ring system, although less magnanimous than Saturn, along with harbouring 27 natural satellites. But, with the new data, this number may require some revisitation, since the two undiscovered moons seem to be lurking around a pair of Uranus' rings.
Uranus stands at least 20 times farther than Earth from the sun, which makes direct observations tougher than usual. 10 moons were found during Voyager 2's 1986 flyby of Uranus, thereby tripling the number of moons known to orbit the gas giant.
However, Planetary scientists Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman from the University of Idaho recently revisited Voyager 2's old data, and they noticed something peculiar in two of Uranus’ 13 rings, Alpha and Beta, according to Nature World News.
The report in Nature World News said that, the two rings exhibit a series of wavy patterns consistent with the presence of two tiny moons. “These patterns may be wakes from small moonlets orbiting exterior to these rings,” write the researchers in their study.
These observations also suggest that these dark moons, which measure a mere two to nine miles (four to 14 km) across, may have been difficult to detect since their features make them smaller than any other known moon to orbit the planet.
Nature World News further reported that, after this discovery, now armed with huge possibilities, the researchers are planning to inspect Uranus with the Hubble Space Telescope.