Scientists have re-analyzed data that was captured by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1986, and they may have discovered two moons hidden in the rings of Uranus.
Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman, two planetary scientists from the University of Idaho, have dug deeper into the recordings of Voyager 2.
The third largest planet in the solar system already has 27 moons that have been discovered through time. However, the two new ones seem to be closer to the planet than any other natural satellite, causing wavy patterns in its closest rings.
While Saturn's the planet famous for its rings, it's also not the only one to have them. Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune have their own. However, the study of Uranus was not usually focused on, because of the planet's position so farther from the Sun than the Earth. Most of the data gathered on Uranus were carried by Voyager 2's mission, which happened 30 years ago.
However, the recent analysis of the information from Voyager 2 has revealed strange activity in two of the planet's 13 rings, Alpha and Beta. The activity is a wavy pattern never observed before, and it suggests that two tiny moons are pulling the rings.
The two scientists also suggested that the moons are really tiny and dark, which makes them very hard to observe. The planet's moons are known for their lack of reflecting light surrounding the dark rings. After conducting the research, the scientists have come to the conclusion that the pattern observed in the two rings is similar to the ones of other rings that have moons.
Their prediction also implies that, should the moons actually exist, they would not be longer than 2 to 9 miles across. A more in-depth analysis should be carried on these observations in order to confirm the two scientists' hypothesis.
"These patterns may be wakes from small moonlets orbiting exterior to these rings," explained the two researchers in their paper.
"None of these spectra show clear, unique maxima indicative of a strong periodic signal. In fact, for both the β ring scans the expected wavelengths are close to the occultation's sampling rate because the scan locations are significantly downstream from the last moonlet interaction," explains the research.
The study also mentions that it does not claim to be indisputable evidence of the two new moons, but it provides a scientific observation that would have to go through more analysis in order to be clearly confirmed. Additionally, the moonlet location proposed by the two scientists is also the subject of scientific speculation rather than the result of scientific method.