California-based scientists make discovery
The planet Uranus has two additional moons and two faint rings never observed before, new images from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal. The new moons, which were named Mab and Cupid, bring the total number of satellites orbiting Uranus to 27. The faint, dusty rings are the first additions to the planet's ring system in nearly 20 years.
Astronomer Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute and his colleagues were not looking for new moons or rings when they submitted a proposal to take deep exposures of the planet with Hubble's most advanced optical camera. Rather, they planned to study the 11 previously known rings and several moons embedded within them.
Once they saw the new moons, they re-examined images that the Voyager 2 spacecraft took when it flew by Uranus in 1986. The two moons are clearly there, but no one recognized them at the time.
Many moons of Uranus are named after characters in Shakespeare, and these new moons follow suit. Mab is named for Queen Mab, who is the subject of a famous speech by the character Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet." Cupid is best known as the Roman god of love, but he also turns up as a character in the lesser-known play "Timon of Athens." The name Perdita comes from the play "A Winter's Tale."
Uranus, four times the size of Earth, is one of the solar system’s giant, gaseous planets that also include Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune.
Related: National Geographic News
Tags: Uranus, Hubble, Space, Astronomy, Science, Media by Sistrunk