November 3, 1997
Explanation: Where did these two irregular moons of Uranus originate? Last week two previously undiscovered moons of the distant gas planet were confirmed, the first in irregular orbits. All fifteen previously known moons of Uranus are 'regular', circling near the planet's equator. Most of these were discovered by the passing Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1986. These newly discovered moons are thought to be odd-shaped and about 100 km across. They are considered irregular, though, because they orbit in odd directions and far from Uranus. If Uranus' irregular moons have the same origin as those orbiting Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, then they were probably caught from orbits around the Sun. Moons like this are discovered by their motion. One of these moons is shown above as the circled point of light moving from left to right. (To stop the movie from repeating, click "stop" on most browsers.)
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.