Uranus, the seventh planet of the Solar System, has 27 known moons, all of which are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. km in diameter and the eighth-largest moon in the Solar System, and about one-twentieth the mass the Earth's Moon. The orbits of the regular moons are nearly coplanar with Uranus's equator, which is tilted 97.77° to its orbit. Uranus's irregular moons have elliptical and strongly inclined (mostly retrograde) orbits at large distances from the planet.Uranus's moons are divided into three groups: thirteen inner moons, five major moons, and nine irregular moons. The inner moons are small dark bodies that share common properties and origins with Uranus's rings. The five major moons are massive enough to have reached hydrostatic equilibrium, and four of them show signs of internally driven processes such as canyon formation and volcanism on their surfaces. The largest of these five, Titania, is 1,578
Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. Uranus is similar in composition to Neptune, and both have bulk chemical compositions which differ from that of the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. For this reason, scientists often classify Uranus and Neptune as "ice giants" to distinguish them from the gas giants. Uranus' atmosphere is similar to Jupiter's and Saturn's in its primary composition of hydrogen and helium, but it contains more "ices" such as water, ammonia, and methane, along with traces of other hydrocarbons. It is the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System, with a minimum temperature of 49 K, and has a complex, layered cloud structure with water thought to make up the lowest clouds and methane the uppermost layer of clouds. The interior of Uranus is mainly composed of ices and rock.
The Solar System is the gravitationally bound planetary system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of the objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest are the eight planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as the five dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. Of the objects that orbit the Sun indirectly—the moons—two are larger than the smallest planet, Mercury.
A natural satellite or moon is, in the most common usage, an astronomical body that orbits a planet or minor planet.
William Herschel discovered the first two moons, Titania and Oberon, in 1787, and the other three ellipsoidal moons were discovered in 1851 by William Lassell (Ariel and Umbriel) and in 1948 by Gerard Kuiper (Miranda).These five have planetary mass, and so would be considered (dwarf) planets if they were in direct orbit about the Sun. The remaining moons were discovered after 1985, either during the Voyager 2 flyby mission or with the aid of advanced Earth-based telescopes.
Frederick William Herschel, was a German-born British astronomer, composer and brother of fellow astronomer Caroline Herschel, with whom he worked. Born in the Electorate of Hanover, Herschel followed his father into the Military Band of Hanover, before migrating to Great Britain in 1757 at the age of nineteen.
Titania is the largest of the moons of Uranus and the eighth largest moon in the Solar System at a diameter of 1,578 kilometres (981 mi). Discovered by William Herschel in 1787, Titania is named after the queen of the fairies in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Its orbit lies inside Uranus's magnetosphere.
Oberon, also designated Uranus IV, is the outermost major moon of the planet Uranus. It is the second-largest and second most massive of the Uranian moons, and the ninth most massive moon in the Solar System. Discovered by William Herschel in 1787, Oberon is named after the mythical king of the fairies who appears as a character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Its orbit lies partially outside Uranus's magnetosphere.
The first two moons to be discovered were Titania and Oberon, which were spotted by Sir William Herschel on January 11, 1787, six years after he had discovered the planet itself. Later, Herschel thought he had discovered up to six moons (see below) and perhaps even a ring. For nearly 50 years, Herschel's instrument was the only one with which the moons had been seen. In the 1840s, better instruments and a more favorable position of Uranus in the sky led to sporadic indications of satellites additional to Titania and Oberon. Eventually, the next two moons, Ariel and Umbriel, were discovered by William Lassell in 1851. The Roman numbering scheme of Uranus's moons was in a state of flux for a considerable time, and publications hesitated between Herschel's designations (where Titania and Oberon are Uranus II and IV) and William Lassell's (where they are sometimes I and II). With the confirmation of Ariel and Umbriel, Lassell numbered the moons I through IV from Uranus outward, and this finally stuck. In 1852, Herschel's son John Herschel gave the four then-known moons their names.
Ariel is the fourth-largest of the 27 known moons of Uranus. Ariel orbits and rotates in the equatorial plane of Uranus, which is almost perpendicular to the orbit of Uranus and so has an extreme seasonal cycle.
Umbriel is a moon of Uranus discovered on October 24, 1851, by William Lassell. It was discovered at the same time as Ariel and named after a character in Alexander Pope's poem The Rape of the Lock. Umbriel consists mainly of ice with a substantial fraction of rock, and may be differentiated into a rocky core and an icy mantle. The surface is the darkest among Uranian moons, and appears to have been shaped primarily by impacts. However, the presence of canyons suggests early endogenic processes, and the moon may have undergone an early endogenically driven resurfacing event that obliterated its older surface.
William Lassell, was an English merchant and astronomer. He is remembered for his improvements to the reflecting telescope and his ensuing discoveries of four planetary satellites.
No other discoveries were made for almost another century. In 1948, Gerard Kuiper at the McDonald Observatory discovered the smallest and the last of the five large, spherical moons, Miranda.Decades later, the flyby of the Voyager 2 space probe in January 1986 led to the discovery of ten further inner moons. Another satellite, Perdita, was discovered in 1999 after studying old Voyager photographs.
Gerard Peter Kuiper was a Dutch–American astronomer, planetary scientist, selenographer, author and professor. He is the eponymous namesake of the Kuiper belt. Kuiper is considered by many to be the father of modern planetary science. As professor at the University of Chicago, he was dissertation advisor to Carl Sagan. In 1958, the two worked on the classified military Project A119, the secret Air Force plan to detonate a nuclear warhead on the Moon.
The McDonald Observatory is an astronomical observatory located near the unincorporated community of Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County, Texas, United States. The facility is located on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, with additional facilities on Mount Fowlkes, approximately 1.3 kilometers (0.81 mi) to the northeast. The observatory is part of the University of Texas at Austin. It is an organized research unit of the College of Natural Sciences.
Miranda, also designated Uranus V, is the smallest and innermost of Uranus's five round satellites. It was discovered by Gerard Kuiper on 16 February 1948 at McDonald Observatory, and named after Miranda from William Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Like the other large moons of Uranus, Miranda orbits close to its planet's equatorial plane. Because Uranus orbits the Sun on its side, Miranda's orbit is perpendicular to the ecliptic and shares Uranus's extreme seasonal cycle.
Uranus was the last giant planet without any known irregular moons, but since 1997 nine distant irregular moons have been identified using ground-based telescopes.Two more small inner moons, Cupid and Mab, were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003. As of 2016, the moon Margaret was the last Uranian moon discovered, and its characteristics were published in October 2003.
In astronomy, an irregular moon, irregular satellite or irregular natural satellite is a natural satellite following a distant, inclined, and often eccentric and retrograde orbit. They have been captured by their parent planet, unlike regular satellites, which formed in orbit around them.
Cupid is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered by Mark R. Showalter and Jack J. Lissauer in 2003 using the Hubble Space Telescope. It was named after a character in William Shakespeare's play Timon of Athens.
Mab, or Uranus XXVI (26), is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered by Mark R. Showalter and Jack J. Lissauer in 2003 using the Hubble Space Telescope. It was named after Queen Mab, a fairy queen from English folklore who is mentioned in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.
After Herschel discovered Titania and Oberon on January 11, 1787, he subsequently believed that he had observed four other moons: two on January 18 and February 9, 1790, and two more on February 28 and March 26, 1794. It was thus believed for many decades thereafter that Uranus had a system of six satellites, though the four latter moons were never confirmed by any other astronomer. Lassell's observations of 1851, in which he discovered Ariel and Umbriel, however, failed to support Herschel's observations; Ariel and Umbriel, which Herschel certainly ought to have seen if he had seen any satellites beside Titania and Oberon, did not correspond to any of Herschel's four additional satellites in orbital characteristics. Herschel's four spurious satellites were thought to have sidereal periods of 5.89 days (interior to Titania), 10.96 days (between Titania and Oberon), 38.08 days, and 107.69 days (exterior to Oberon).It was therefore concluded that Herschel's four satellites were spurious, probably arising from the misidentification of faint stars in the vicinity of Uranus as satellites, and the credit for the discovery of Ariel and Umbriel was given to Lassell.
Although the first two Uranian moons were discovered in 1787, they were not named until 1852, a year after two more moons had been discovered. The responsibility for naming was taken by John Herschel, son of the discoverer of Uranus. Herschel, instead of assigning names from Greek mythology, named the moons after magical spirits in English literature: the fairies Oberon and Titania from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream , and the sylph Ariel and gnome Umbriel from Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock (Ariel is also a sprite in Shakespeare's The Tempest ). The reasoning was presumably that Uranus, as god of the sky and air, would be attended by spirits of the air.
Subsequent names, rather than continuing the airy spirits theme (only Puck and Mab continued the trend), have focused on Herschel's source material. In 1949, the fifth moon, Miranda, was named by its discoverer Gerard Kuiper after a thoroughly mortal character in Shakespeare's The Tempest . The current IAU practice is to name moons after characters from Shakespeare's plays and The Rape of the Lock (although at present only Ariel, Umbriel, and Belinda have names drawn from the latter; all the rest are from Shakespeare). At first, the outermost moons were all named after characters from one play, The Tempest; but with Margaret being named from Much Ado About Nothing that trend has ended.
Some asteroids share names with moons of Uranus: 171 Ophelia, 218 Bianca, 593 Titania, 666 Desdemona, 763 Cupido, and 2758 Cordelia.
The Uranian satellite system is the least massive among those of the giant planets. Indeed, the combined mass of the five major satellites is less than half that of Triton (the seventh-largest moon in the Solar System) alone. km, or less than half that of the Moon, but slightly more than that of Rhea, the second-largest moon of Saturn, making Titania the eighth-largest moon in the Solar System. Uranus is about 10,000 times more massive than its moons.The largest of the satellites, Titania, has a radius of 788.9
As of 2016, Uranus is known to have 13 inner moons. km in radius) undiscovered shepherd moons located about 100 km exterior to Uranus' α and β rings.Their orbits lie inside that of Miranda. All inner moons are intimately connected with the rings of Uranus, which probably resulted from the fragmentation of one or several small inner moons. The two innermost moons (Cordelia and Ophelia) are shepherds of Uranus's ε ring, whereas the small moon Mab is a source of Uranus's outermost μ ring. There may be two additional small (2–7
At 162 km, Puck is the largest of the inner moons of Uranus and the only one imaged by Voyager 2 in any detail. Puck and Mab are the two outermost inner satellites of Uranus. All inner moons are dark objects; their geometrical albedo is less than 10%. They are composed of water ice contaminated with a dark material, probably radiation-processed organics.
The small inner moons constantly perturb each other. The system is chaotic and apparently unstable. Simulations show that the moons may perturb each other into crossing orbits, which may eventually result in collisions between the moons. million years.Desdemona may collide with either Cressida or Juliet within the next 100
Uranus has five major moons: Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon. They range in diameter from 472 km for Miranda to 1578 km for Titania. All these moons are relatively dark objects: their geometrical albedo varies between 30 and 50%, whereas their Bond albedo is between 10 and 23%. Umbriel is the darkest moon and Ariel the brightest. The masses of the moons range from 6.7 × 1019 kg (Miranda) to 3.5 × 1021 kg (Titania). For comparison, the Moon has a mass of 7.5 × 1022 kg. The major moons of Uranus are thought to have formed in the accretion disc, which existed around Uranus for some time after its formation or resulted from a large impact suffered by Uranus early in its history.
All major moons comprise approximately equal amounts rock and ice, except Miranda, which is made primarily of ice. nanobar.The ice component may include ammonia and carbon dioxide. Their surfaces are heavily cratered, though all of them (except Umbriel) show signs of endogenic resurfacing in the form of lineaments (canyons) and, in the case of Miranda, ovoid race-track like structures called coronae. Extensional processes associated with upwelling diapirs are likely responsible for the origin of the coronae. Ariel appears to have the youngest surface with the fewest impact craters, while Umbriel's appears oldest. A past 3:1 orbital resonance between Miranda and Umbriel and a past 4:1 resonance between Ariel and Titania are thought to be responsible for the heating that caused substantial endogenic activity on Miranda and Ariel. One piece of evidence for such a past resonance is Miranda's unusually high orbital inclination (4.34°) for a body so close to the planet. The largest Uranian moons may be internally differentiated, with rocky cores at their centers surrounded by ice mantles. Titania and Oberon may harbor liquid water oceans at the core/mantle boundary. The major moons of Uranus are airless bodies. For instance, Titania was shown to possess no atmosphere at a pressure larger than 10–20
The path of the Sun in the local sky over the course of a local day during Uranus's and its major moons' summer solstice is quite different from that seen on most other Solar System worlds. The major moons have almost exactly the same rotational axial tilt as Uranus (their axes are parallel to that of Uranus).The Sun would appear to follow a circular path around Uranus's celestial pole in the sky, at the closest about 7 degrees from it. Near the equator, it would be seen nearly due north or due south (depending on the season). At latitudes higher than 7°, the Sun would trace a circular path about 15 degrees in diameter in the sky, and never set.
As of 2005 Uranus is known to have nine irregular moons, which orbit it at a distance much greater than that of Oberon, the furthest of the large moons. All the irregular moons are probably captured objects that were trapped by Uranus soon after its formation. million km.The diagram illustrates the orbits of those irregular moons discovered so far. The moons above the X axis are prograde, those beneath are retrograde. The radius of the Uranian Hill sphere is approximately 73
Uranus's irregular moons range in size from 120–200 km (Sycorax) to about 20 km (Trinculo). Unlike Jupiter's irregulars, Uranus's show no correlation of axis with inclination. Instead, the retrograde moons can be divided into two groups based on axis/orbital eccentricity. The inner group includes those satellites closer to Uranus (a < 0.15 rH) and moderately eccentric (~0.2), namely Francisco, Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. The outer group (a > 0.15 rH) includes satellites with high eccentricity (~0.5): Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, and Ferdinand.
The intermediate inclinations 60° < i < 140° are devoid of known moons due to the Kozai instability. million to a billion years.In this instability region, solar perturbations at apoapse cause the moons to acquire large eccentricities that lead to collisions with inner satellites or ejection. The lifetime of moons in the instability region is from 10
Margaret is the only known irregular prograde moon of Uranus, and it currently has the most eccentric orbit of any moon in the Solar System, though Neptune's moon Nereid has a higher mean eccentricity. As of 2008, Margaret's eccentricity is 0.7979.
The Uranian moons are listed here by orbital period, from shortest to longest. Moons massive enough for their surfaces to have collapsed into a spheroid are highlighted in light blue and bolded. Irregular moons with retrograde orbits are shown in dark grey. Margaret, the only known irregular moon of Uranus with a prograde orbit, is shown in light grey.
|Order ||Label ||Name||Pronunciation |
|Image|| Diameter |
| Mass |
| Semi-major axis |
| Orbital period |
| Inclination |
| Eccentricity || Discovery |
|1||VI||¡ Cordelia||/ /||40 ± 6 |
(50 × 36)
|0.044||77049||0340.335||79°0.084||260.000||1986|| Terrile |
|2||VII||¡ Ophelia||/ /||43 ± 8 |
(54 × 38)
|0.053||79053||4000.376||0.1036°||920.009||1986|| Terrile |
|3||VIII||¡ Bianca||/ /||51 ± 4 |
(64 × 46)
|0.092||17059||5790.434||0.193°||920.000||1986|| Smith |
|4||IX||¡ Cressida||/ /||80 ± 4 |
(92 × 74)
|0.34||78061||5700.463||0.006°||360.000||1986|| Synnott |
|5||X||¡ Desdemona||/ /||64 ± 8 |
(90 × 54)
|0.18||68062||6500.473||25°0.111||130.000||1986|| Synnott |
|6||XI||¡ Juliet||/ /||94 ± 8 |
(150 × 74)
|0.56||35064||0650.493||0.065°||660.000||1986|| Synnott |
|7||XII||¡ Portia||/ /||135 ± 8 |
(156 × 126)
|1.70||09066||1960.513||0.059°||050.000||1986|| Synnott |
|8||XIII||¡ Rosalind||/ /||72 ± 12||0.25||94069||4600.558||0.279°||110.000||1986|| Synnott |
|9||XXVII||¡ Cupid||/ /||≈ 18||0.0038||80074||0.618||0.1°||0.0013||2003|| Showalter and |
|10||XIV||¡ Belinda||/ /||90 ± 16 |
(128 × 64)
|0.49||26075||5270.623||0.031°||070.000||1986|| Synnott |
|11||XXV||¡ Perdita||/ /||30 ± 6||0.018||40076||0.638||0.0°||0.0012||1999|| Karkoschka |
|12||XV||¡ Puck||/ /||162 ± 4||2.90||01086||8330.761||0.3192°||120.000||1985|| Synnott |
|13||XXVI||¡ Mab||/ /||≈ 25||0.01||70097||0.923||0.1335°||0.0025||2003||Showalter and |
|14||V||† Miranda||/ /||471.6 ± 1.4 |
(481 × 468 × 466)
|15||I||† Ariel||/ /||157.8±1.21|
(1162 × 1156 × 1155)
|16||II||† Umbriel||/ /||169.4±5.61||±1351172||300266||4.144177||0.205°||0.0039||1851||Lassell|
|17||III||† Titania||/ /||576.8±1.21||±903527||910435||8728.705||0.340°||0.0011||1787||Herschel|
|18||IV||† Oberon||/ /||522.8±5.21||±753014||520583||23913.463||0.058°||0.0014||1787||Herschel|
|19||XXII||‡ Francisco||/ /||≈ 22||0.0072||2760004||−266.56||147.459°||0.1459||2003||Holman et al.|
|20||XVI||‡ Caliban||/ /||≈ 72||0.25||2300007||−579.50||139.885°||0.1587||1997||Gladman et al.|
|21||XX||‡ Stephano||/ /||≈ 32||0.022||0020008||−676.50||141.873°||0.2292||1999||Gladman et al.|
|22||XXI||‡ Trinculo||/ /||≈ 18||0.0039||5710008||−758.10||166.252°||0.2200||2001||Holman et al.|
|23||XVII||‡ Sycorax||/ /||+36|
|2.30||17900012||−1283.4||152.456°||0.5224||1997||Nicholson et al.|
|24||XXIII||± Margaret||/ /||≈ 20||0.0054||34500014||1694.8||51.455°||0.6608||2003|| Sheppard and |
|25||XVIII||‡ Prospero||/ /||≈ 50||0.085||41800016||−1992.8||146.017°||0.4448||1999||Holman et al.|
|26||XIX||‡ Setebos||/ /||≈ 48||0.075||45900017||−2202.3||145.883°||0.5914||1999||Kavelaars et al.|
|27||XXIV||‡ Ferdinand||/ /||≈ 20||0.0054||90000020||−2823.4||167.346°||0.3682||2003||Holman et al.|
Irregular moons (retrograde)
Irregular moon (prograde)
Sources: NASA/NSSDC,Sheppard, et al. 2005. For the recently discovered outer irregular moons (Francisco through Ferdinand) the most accurate orbital data can be generated with the Natural Satellites Ephemeris Service. The irregulars are significantly perturbed by the Sun.
Nereid is the third-largest moon of Neptune. It has a highly eccentric orbit. It was the second moon of Neptune to be discovered, by Gerard Kuiper in 1949.
Puck is an inner moon of Uranus. It was discovered in December 1985 by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. The name Puck follows the convention of naming Uranus's moons after characters from Shakespeare. The orbit of Puck lies between the rings of Uranus and the first of Uranus's large moons, Miranda. Puck is approximately spherical in shape and has diameter of about 162 km. It has a dark, heavily cratered surface, which shows spectral signs of water ice.
Cordelia is the innermost known moon of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on January 20, 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 7. It was not detected again until the Hubble Space Telescope observed it in 1997. Cordelia takes its name from the youngest daughter of Lear in William Shakespeare's King Lear. It is also designated Uranus VI.
Ophelia is a moon of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on January 20, 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 8. It was not seen until the Hubble Space Telescope recovered it in 2003. Ophelia was named after the daughter of Polonius, Ophelia, in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. It is also designated Uranus VII.
Bianca is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on January 23, 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 9. It was named after the sister of Katherine in Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew. It is also designated Uranus VIII.
Cressida is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on 9 January 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 3. It was named after Cressida, the Trojan daughter of Calchas, a tragic heroine who appears in William Shakespeare's play Troilus and Cressida. It is also designated Uranus IX.
Desdemona is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on 13 January 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 6. Desdemona is named after the wife of Othello in William Shakespeare's play Othello. It is also designated Uranus X.
Juliet is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on 3 January 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 2. It is named after the heroine of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It is also designated Uranus XI.
Rosalind is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on 13 January 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 4. It was named after the daughter of the banished Duke in William Shakespeare's play As You Like It. It is also designated Uranus XIII.
Belinda is an inner satellite of the planet Uranus. Belinda was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on 13 January 1986 and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 5. It is named after the heroine of Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. It is also designated Uranus XIV.
Portia is an inner satellite of Uranus. It was discovered from the images taken by Voyager 2 on 3 January 1986, and was given the temporary designation S/1986 U 1. The moon is named after Portia, the heroine of William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice. It is also designated Uranus XII.
Sycorax is the largest retrograde irregular satellite of Uranus. Sycorax was discovered on 6 September 1997 by Brett J. Gladman, Philip D. Nicholson, Joseph A. Burns, and John J. Kavelaars using the 200-inch Hale telescope, together with Caliban, and given the temporary designation S/1997 U 2.
Wunda is a large crater on the surface of Uranus' moon Umbriel. It is 131 km in diameter and is located near the equator of Umbriel. The crater is named after Wunda, a dark spirit of Australian aboriginal mythology.
The naming of moons has been the responsibility of the International Astronomical Union's committee for Planetary System Nomenclature since 1973. That committee is known today as the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN).
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