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The Shakespearean Moons of Uranus

This weekend marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and we’re highlighting the moons of Uranus; some of which are named after characters from his works.

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While most of the moons orbiting other planets take their names from Greek mythology, Uranus’ moons are unique in bing named for Shakespearean characters, along with a couple of them being named for characters from the works of Alexander Pope.

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Using the Hubble Space Telescope and improved ground-based telescopes, astronomers have discovered a total of 27 known moons around Uranus.

Here’s a sampling of some of the unique aspects of the moons:

Miranda

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Shakespearean work: The Tempest

Miranda, the innermost and smallest of the five major satellites, has a surface unlike any other moon that’s been seen. It has a giant fault canyon as much as 12 times as deep as the Grand Canyon, terraced layers and surfaces that appear very old, and others that look much younger.

Ariel

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Shakespearean work: The Tempest

Ariel has the brightest and possibly the youngest surface among all the moons of Uranus. It has a few large craters and many small ones, indicating that fairly recent low-impact collisions wiped out the large craters that would have been left by much earlier, bigger strikes. Intersecting valleys pitted with craters scars its surface.

Oberon

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Shakespearean work: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon, the outermost of the five major moons, is old, heavily cratered and shows little signs of internal activity. Unidentified dark material appears on the floors of many of its craters.

Cordelia and Ophelia

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Shakespearean works: Cordelia – King Lear; Ophelia – Hamlet

Cordelia and Ophelia are shepherd moons that keep Uranus’ thin, outermost “epsilon” ring well defined.

Between them and miranda is a swarm of eight small satellites unlike any other system of planetary moons. This region is so crowded that astronomers don’t yet understand how the little moons have managed to avoid crashing into each other. They may be shepherds for the planet’s 10 narrow rings, and scientists think there must be still more moons, interior to any known, to confine the edges of the inner rings.

Want to learn more about all of Uranus’s moons? Visit: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/uranus/moons

Check out THIS blog from our Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan, where she reflects on the life and legacy of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23, 1616.

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Source: You’ll find lots of information about the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Also we have facts about the space station, ISS, SpaceX launch, space program, and outerspace. NASA

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The Shakespearean Moons of Uranus

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