Solar System Family has grown! More Moons are discovered on the planets Uranus and Neptune

Three moons have been discovered around the planets Uranus and Neptune. Two of them will be named after mythological sea creatures and the other will be named after a Shakespeare character.

New moons have been found around the planets Uranus and Neptune
New moons were found around the planets Uranus and Neptune increasing the number of known objects in the Solar System. Credit: NASA/Caltech

Uranus and Neptune are part of the quartet of giant planets of the Solar System along with Jupiter and Saturn. Like the other two, the planets have an abundant amount of moons orbiting. According to the NASA website, Uranus had 27 known moons while Neptune had 14 known moons.

The record for the planet with the most moons is between the planets Saturn and Jupiter. In the last year, Saturn again had the title of planet with the most moons in the Solar System with its 146 confirmed moons. Jupiter has 95 known moons so far. The number of moons of the two planets always increases as more moons are always being found.

The moons were found by a researcher from the Carnegie Institution for Science named Scott Sheppard. The moons found by Sheppard are the moons with the lowest brightness ever found by telescopes located on the surface of the Earth. Currently, astronomers are waiting for the approval of the names for the moons.

Gaseous giants

The Solar System has 4 giant gaseous planets. They are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System and due to its mass it gravitationally interferes with the objects of the system. This causes the planet to share orbit with a series of wrecks and rocks.

The planet is even known as a natural defense for smaller planets, such as Earth, since it attracts asteroids and comets towards it.

Despite this, all giant planets gravitationally influence other bodies much more intensely than planets such as Earth and Mars. Because of this, it is common for natural satellites to be found more often orbiting them. Of the smaller planets, only Earth and Mars have natural satellites.

The new moon of Uranus

The planet Uranus had 27 known moons and with this discovery the number rose to 28 moons. The moon is being known as S/2023 U1. She was found by Sheppard in November last year when he used data from telescopes located in Chile. The announcement of the discovery was made in February 2024 by the International Astronomical Union.

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Planet Uranus with a point on the side that represents the newly discovered moon. Credit: Scott Sheppard

The moon is one of the smallest known in the Solar System with only 8 kilometers in diameter. The moon is even smaller than Deimos on Mars, which is only 13 kilometers in diameter. The extremely small size was one of the characteristics that made it difficult to discover the moon.

The moons of Neptune

The planet Neptune had 14 moons and the number increased to 16 when Sheppard found two new moons orbiting the planet. The moons received the scientific names of S/2002 N5 and S/2021. One of them was confirmed as the object that was found in 2003.

The moon was not confirmed in 2003 because it was no longer found in later observations. The other had been observed in 2021.

The moons found in Neptune are a little larger than the new moon of Uranus. One is 23 kilometers in diameter while the other is 14 kilometers in diameter. The first orbits Neptune in a period of 9 years, while the second has a period of 27 years.

How do we name moons?

To name the moons, it is necessary to follow some conditions imposed by the International Astronomical Union. Each planet has a condition that is often associated with the name of the planet. An example is that the moons of Jupiter are usually named after the descendants of Jupiter or Zeus in Greco-Roman mythology.

The moons of Uranus should be named after William Shakespeare's characters. Some moons on the planet are also named after Alexander Pope's characters. Neptune, on the other hand, has moons that are named with Greek or Roman characters, mainly names associated with beings related to the sea.

Waiting for appointment

Until this post, the moons found are waiting for the permanent names that will be assigned by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU is the institution responsible for recognizing and naming astronomical objects. A famous case of the IAU is that it was the institution that defined the conditions of the definition of planet and ended up classifying Pluto as a dwarf planet.