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The planet Uranus has 27 known moons, most of which weren't discovered until the space age. They range from Titania, 981 miles (1,579 kilometers) in diameter, to tiny Cupid, only 11 miles (18 km) in diameter. All satellites of Uranus are named for characters in William Shakespeare plays or characters from Alexander Pope's "Rape of the Lock," according to International Astronomical Union guidelines.
Astronomers knew of five moons before the Voyager 2 spacecraft launched in 1977. The probe found an additional 10 when it swung by the system in 1986.
Voyager - Past - Hemispheres - Moons - Portion
"When [Voyager 2] flew past in 1986, it was winter and dark on the whole northern hemispheres of all the moons, so we could only see a portion of their southern hemispheres," Jeff Moore, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in California, told Space.com. "The encounter was also a bit like flying through a bull's-eye. Rather than one moon at a time, [Voyager 2] encountered the whole system at once."
No spacecraft has gone to Uranus since then, but astronomers have found new moons with the aid of generally improving telescope technology and techniques. The latest discoveries — Mab, Cupid and Margaret — were confirmed in 2003.
Moons - Uranus - Collision - Planet - Side
The moons of Uranus may have formed from the collision that knocked the planet over on its side.
"Material from the two [colliding] bodies is ejected in a debris disk, and finally satellites are formed from the debris disk," researcher Yuya Ishizawa, of Japan's Kyoto University, told Space.com. "It is possible to explain the axial tilt and the formation of the regular satellites of Uranus simultaneously."
Discovery - Uranus - Moons - Astronomer - William
The discovery of Uranus and its first two moons came from the same astronomer: William Herschel. The English skygazer found Oberon and Titania in 1787, just six years after discovering the planet itself.
Close-up pictures two centuries later showed that Oberon...
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