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Report: 2 moons may be hiding in rings of Uranus

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 18/10/2016 Mary Bowerman
A false color view of Uranus made from images taken by Voyager II, 21 January 1986 from a distance of 4,17 million kilometers. © AFP/Getty Images A false color view of Uranus made from images taken by Voyager II, 21 January 1986 from a distance of 4,17 million kilometers.

Two small dark moons might be hiding in the rings of Uranus, according to a new report. 

Researchers from the University of Idaho in Moscow reexamined data collected during the Voyager 2 flyby of Uranus in 1986 and discovered what appeared to evidence of two small moons, according to the paper, which has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

Uranus, which has dark, narrow rings, is known to have 27 moons, many of which were discovered from data collected when the Voyager 2 passed by in 1986.

According to the new report, researchers Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman say they discovered wavy patterns in two of Uranus’ rings, which could indicate the gravitational pull from two small moons. 

“These patterns may be wakes from small moonlets orbiting exterior to these rings,” the researchers say in the report.

The moons are likely dark and very small, Hedman told New Scientist. 

“Not only are Uranus’s rings dark, so are most of the little satellites that are in that region,”  Hedman told New Scientist.

 Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., told New Scientist that it’s “plausible” there are two undiscovered moons hiding in the rings. 

According to New Scientist, Showalter plans to examine Hubble Space Telescope observations in hopes of discovering whether the moons exist, or if other satellites are orbiting the planet. 

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