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Astronomers spot new tiny moons around Neptune and Uranus

NASA VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                This August 1989 image provided by NASA shows the planet Neptune photographed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft, processed to enhance the visibility of small features. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced, today, that astronomers have found three previously unknown moons in our solar system — two additional moons circling Neptune and one around Uranus.
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NASA VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

This August 1989 image provided by NASA shows the planet Neptune photographed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft, processed to enhance the visibility of small features. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced, today, that astronomers have found three previously unknown moons in our solar system — two additional moons circling Neptune and one around Uranus.

WASHINGTON >> Astronomers have found three previously unknown moons in our solar system — two additional moons circling Neptune and one around Uranus.

The distant tiny moons were spotted using powerful land-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and announced today by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

The latest tally puts Neptune at 16 known moons and Uranus at 28.

One of Neptune’s new moons has the longest known orbital journey yet. It takes around 27 years for the small outer moon to complete one lap around Neptune, the vast icy planet farthest from the sun, said Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington who helped make the discovery.

The new moon orbiting Uranus, with an estimated diameter of just 5 miles (8 kilometers), is likely the smallest of the planet’s moons.

“We suspect that there may be many more smaller moons” yet to be discovered, he said.

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