File:Uranus moons.jpg

Uranus, the seventh planet of the Solar System, has 27 known moons,[1] all of which are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.[2] William Herschel discovered the first two moons, Titania and Oberon, in 1787, and the remaining spherical moons were discovered in 1851 by William Lassell (Ariel and Umbriel) and in 1948 by Gerard Kuiper (Miranda).[2] The remaining moons were discovered after 1985, either during the Voyager 2 flyby mission or with the aid of advanced ground-based telescopes.[1][3]

Uranian 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 the planet's rings. The five major moons are massive enough to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium, and four of them show signs of internally driven processes such as canyon formation and volcanism on their surfaces.[3] The largest of these five, Titania, is 1,578 km in diameter and the eighth-largest moon in the Solar System, and about 20 times less massive than Earth's Moon. Uranus's irregular moons have elliptical and strongly inclined (mostly retrograde) orbits at great distances from the planet.[1]


The first two moons to be discovered, Titania and Oberon, 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.[4] 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.[5] 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).[6] With the confirmation of Ariel and Umbriel, Lassell numbered the moons I through IV from Uranus outward, and this finally stuck.[7] In 1852, Herschel's son John Herschel gave the four then-known moons their names.[8]

No other discoveries were made for almost another century. In 1948, Gerard Kuiper discovered the smallest and the last of the five large, spherical moons, Miranda.[8] Decades later, the flyby of the Voyager 2 space probe in January 1986 led to the discovery of ten further inner moons.[3] Another satellite, Perdita, was retroactively discovered in 2001 after studying old Voyager photographs.[9]

Uranus was the last giant planet without any known irregular satellites, but since 1997 nine distant irregular moons have been identified using ground-based telescopes.[1] Two more small inner moons, Cupid and Mab, were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003.[10] The moon Margaret was the last Uranian moon discovered as of 2008, and its findings were published in October 2003.[11]

Spurious moonsEdit

After Herschel discovered Titania and Oberon on January 11, 1787, he subsequently believed that he 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. It was therefore concluded that Herschel's four satellites were spurious, probably arising from the misidentification of small stars in the vicinity of Uranus as satellites, and the credit for the discovery of Ariel and Umbriel was given to Lassell.[12] 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 and 107.69 days (exterior to Oberon).[13]


Main article: Naming of moons

The first two Uranian moons, discovered in 1787, did not receive names 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 sylphs Ariel and 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.[14]

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 poem; 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.[8]

File:Masses of Uranian moons.png

Some asteroids share names with moons of Uranus: 171 Ophelia, 218 Bianca, 593 Titania, 666 Desdemona, 763 Cupido and 2758 Cordelia.

Characteristics and groupsEdit

The Uranian satellite system is the least massive among those of the gas giants; indeed, the combined mass of the five major satellites would be less than half that of Triton (the seventh-largest moon in the Solar System) alone.[note 1] The largest of the satellites, Titania, has a radius of 788.9 km,[16] or less than half that of the Moon, but slightly more than 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.[note 2]

Inner moonsEdit

File:Uranian system schematic.jpg

As of 2008, Uranus is known to possess 13 inner moons.[10] Their orbits lie inside that of Miranda. All inner moons are intimately connected to the rings of Uranus, which probably resulted from the fragmentation of one or several small inner moons.[17] The two innermost moons (Cordelia and Ophelia) serve as shepherds of Uranus's ε ring, while small moon Mab is a source of Uranus's outermost μ ring.[10]

Puck, at 162 km, is by far the largest of the inner moons of Uranus and the only one imaged by Voyager 2 in any detail. Puck and Mab are the 2 outermost inner satellites of Uranus. All inner moons are dark objects; their geometrical albedo do not exceed 10%.[18] They are made of water ice contaminated with a dark material—probably radiation processed organics.[19]

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.[10] Desdemona may collide with either Cressida or Juliet within the next 100 million years.[20]

Large moonsEdit

Uranus has five moons larger than 450 km in diameter.

Miranda, at 470 km in diameter, is the closest and smallest large moon of Uranus. Miranda also has the highest orbital inclination of the major moons (4.23 degrees). The moon is covered with large faults and rifts, indicating current or past geologic activity of some kind. Miranda was the only one of the large moons to be imaged at close range by Voyager 2, resulting in very high quality images of the bizarre surface.

Ariel is the fourth largest major moon of Uranus. Larger than Saturn's moon Dione, Ariel has large valleys and canyons on the south polar hemisphere. This and the apparent lack of large craters indicate Ariel may be geologically active today or in the recent past. Ariel's southern hemisphere was observed at relatively high resolution by Voyager 2 in 1986.

Umbriel is the third closest and third largest of the major moons. Umbriel's surface is very dark and cratered. Umbriel is almost as large as Charon, the largest moon of Pluto.

Titania at 1975 km, is the largest of Uranus' moons. It is the 8th largest moon in the Solar System, and it is larger than the dwarf planets Makemake and Haumea. Titania may also be geologically active; its southern hemisphere shows evidence of chasms and rifts similar to those on Ariel and Dione.

Oberon is the most distant of the major moons. It is nearly the same size as Titania. It appears to have a dark and geologically inactive surface. As with the other moons, only Oberon's south pole was imaged by Voyager 2.

Irregular moonsEdit

As of 2005 Uranus is known to have nine irregular moons, which circle the planet at a distance much greater than that of Oberon, the furthest of the large moons. All irregular moons are likely captured objects, which were trapped by Uranus soon after its formation.[1] 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 Uranus' Hill's sphere is approximately 73 million km.[1]

Uranus's irregular moons range in size from about 150 km (Sycorax) to 18 km (Trinculo).[1] Unlike Jupiter's irregulars, Uranus's show no correlation axis versus 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.[1] The outer group (a > 0.15 rH) includes satellites with high eccentricity (~0.5): Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos and Ferdinand.[1]

The intermediate inclinations 60° < i < 140° are devoid of known moons due to the Kozai instability.[1] 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 million to a billion years.[1]

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.[21]


</br> Major moons </br> Retrograde moons

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 prograde orbits are shown in light grey, those with retrograde orbits in dark grey.

[note 3]
[note 4]
Image Diameter
(km)[note 5]
(×1018 kg)[note 6]
Semi-major axis
Orbital period
(d)[22][note 7]
1 VI Cordelia kɔrˈdiːliə 40.2 ± 6 0.044 49,751 0.335034 0.08479° 0.00026 1986 Terrile
(Voyager 2)
2 VII Ophelia ɵˈfiːliə 42.8 ± 8 0.053 53,764 0.376400 0.1036° 0.00992 1986 Terrile
(Voyager 2)
3 VIII Bianca biːˈɑːŋkə 51.4 ± 4 0.092 59,165 0.434579 0.193° 0.00092 1986 Smith
(Voyager 2)
4 IX Cressida ˈkrɛsɨdə 79.6 ± 4 0.34 61,766 0.463570 0.006° 0.00036 1986 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
5 X Desdemona ˌdɛzdɨˈmoʊnə 64.0 ± 8 0.18 62,658 0.473650 0.11125° 0.00013 1986 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
6 XI Juliet ˈdʒuːliɨt 93.6 ± 8 0.56 64,360 0.493065 0.065° 0.00066 1986 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
7 XII Portia ˈpɔrʃə 135.2 ± 8 1.70 66,097 0.513196 0.059° 0.00005 1986 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
8 XIII Rosalind ˈrɒzəlɨnd 72 ± 12 0.25 69,927 0.558460 0.279° 0.00011 1986 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
9 XXVII Cupid ˈkjuːpɪd ~18 0.0038 74,800 0.618 0.1° 0.0013 2003 Showalter and
10 XIV Belinda bɨˈlɪndə 90 ± 16 0.49 75,255 0.623527 0.031° 0.00007 1986 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
11 XXV Perdita ˈpɜrdɨtə 30 ± 6 0.018 76,420 0.638 0.0° 0.0012 1986 Karkoschaka
(Voyager 2)
12 XV Puck ˈpʌk 162 ± 4 2.90 86,004 0.761833 0.3192° 0.00012 1985 Synnott
(Voyager 2)
13 XXVI Mab ˈmæb ~25 0.01 97,734 0.923 0.1335° 0.0025 2003 Showalter and
14 V Miranda mɨˈrændə 471.6 ± 1.4 66 ± 7 129,390 1.413479 4.232° 0.0013 1948 Kuiper
15 I Ariel ˈeɪriəl 1,157.8 ± 1.2 1,350 ± 120 191,020 2.520379 0.260° 0.0012 1851 Lassell
16 II Umbriel ˈʌmbriəl 1,169.4 ± 5.6 1,170 ± 130 266,300 4.144177 0.205° 0.? 1851 Lassell
17 III Titania tɨˈtɑːnjə 1,577.8 ± 3.6 3,530 ± 90 435,910 8.705872 0.340° 0.0011 1787 Herschel
18 IV Oberon ˈoʊbərɒn 1,522.8 ± 5.2 3010 ± 70 583,520 13.463239 0.058° 0.0014 1787 Herschel
19 XXII Francisco frænˈsɪskoʊ ~22 0.0072 4,276,000 −266.56 147.459° 0.1459 2003[note 8] Holman et al.
20 XVI Caliban ˈkælɨbæn ~72 0.25 7,231,000 −579.73 139.885° 0.1587 1997 Gladman et al.
21 XX Stephano ˈstɛfənoʊ ~32 0.022 8,004,000 −677.37 141.873° 0.2292 1999 Gladman et al.
22 XXI Trinculo ˈtrɪŋkjʊloʊ ~18 0.0039 8,504,000 −749.24 166.252° 0.2200 2001 Holman et al.
23 XVII Sycorax ˈsɪkəræks ~150 2.30 12,179,000 −1288.28 152.456° 0.5224 1997 Nicholson et al.
24 XXIII Margaret ˈmɑrɡərɨt ~20 0.0054 14,345,000 1687.01 51.455° 0.6608 2003 Sheppard and
25 XVIII Prospero ˈprɒspəroʊ ~50 0.085 16,256,000 −1978.29 146.017° 0.4448 1999 Holman et al.
26 XIX Setebos ˈsɛtɨbʌs ~48 0.075 17,418,000 −2225.21 145.883° 0.5914 1999 Kavelaars et al.
27 XXIV Ferdinand ˈfɜrdɨnænd ~20 0.0054 20,901,000 −2805.51 167.346° 0.3682 2003[note 8] Holman et al.

Sources: NASA/NSSDC,[22] Sheppard, et al. 2005.[1] For the recently discovered outer irregular moons (Francisco through Ferdinand) the most accurate orbital data can be generated with the Natural Satellites Ephemeris Service.[21] The irregulars are significantly perturbed by the Sun.[1]


  1. The mass of Triton is about 2.14 × 1022 kg,[15] whereas the combined mass of the Uranian moons is about 1 × 1022 kg.
  2. Uranus Mass of 8.681 × 1025 kg / Mass of four largest moons 8.82 × 1021 kg = 9,842; the other moons are relatively insignificant.
  3. Order refers to the position among other moons with respect to their average distance from Uranus.
  4. Label refers to the Roman numeral attributed to each moon in order of their discovery.
  5. Diameters with multiple entries such as "60×40×34" reflect that the body is not a perfect spheroid and that each of its dimensions have been measured well enough.
  6. Mass of the small moons calculated assuming a density of 1.3 g/cm3. Unless otherwise noted, the uncertainty in the reported masses is not available.
  7. Negative orbital periods indicate a retrograde orbit around Uranus (opposite to the planet's rotation).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Detected in 2001, published in 2003.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Template:Source list/Sheppard2005
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Template:Source list/Gazetteer
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Template:Source list/Smith1986
  4. Herschel, John (1834). "On the Satellites of Uranus". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 3 (5): 35–36, 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Template:Source list/Lassell1851
  6. Lassell, W. (1848). "Observations of Satellites of Uranus". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 8 (3): 43–44, 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Template:Source list/Lassell1851b
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Template:Source list/Kuiper1949
  9. 9.0 9.1 Template:Source list/Karkoschka2001b
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Template:Source list/Showalter2006
  11. Green, Daniel W. E. (2003-10-09). "IAUC 8217: S/2003 U 3; 157P; AG Dra". IAU Circular. Retrieved on 2008-12-21.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Denning, W.F. (October 22, 1881). "The centenary of the discovery of Uranus". Scientific American Supplement (303), 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Hughes, D. W. (1994). "The Historical Unravelling of the Diameters of the First Four Asteroids". R.A.S. Quarterly Journal 35 (3): 334–344, 
  14. William Lassell (1852). "Beobachtungen der Uranus-Satelliten". Astronomische Nachrichten 34: 325, Retrieved on 18 December 2008. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Tyler, G.L.; Sweetnam, D.L.; Anderson, J.D. et al. (1989). "Voyager radio science observations of Neptune and Triton". Science 246: 1466–73. doi:10.1126/science.246.4936.1466. PMID 17756001, 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Template:Source list/Jacobson1992
  17. 17.0 17.1 Template:Source list/Esposito2002
  18. 18.0 18.1 Template:Source list/Karkoschka2001a
  19. 19.0 19.1 Template:Source list/Dumas2003
  20. 20.0 20.1 Duncan, Martin J.; Jack J. Lissauer (1997). "Orbital Stability of the Uranian Satellite System". Icarus 125 (1): 1–12. doi:10.1006/icar.1996.5568, Retrieved on 10 May 2008. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Natural Satellites Ephemeris Service". IAU: Minor Planet Center. Retrieved on 2008-12-20.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Williams, Dr. David R. (2007-11-23). "Uranian Satellite Fact Sheet". NASA (National Space Science Data Center). Retrieved on 2008-12-20.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Jacobson, R.A. (1998). "The Orbits of the Inner Uranian Satellites From Hubble Space Telescope and Voyager2 Observations". The Astronomical Journal 115: 1195–1199. doi:10.1086/300263, 
  24. Template:Source list/Hassmann2006
  25. Pappalardo, R. T.; Reynolds, S. J., Greeley, R. (1996). "Extensional tilt blocks on Miranda: Evidence for an upwelling origin of Arden Corona". Journal of Geophysical Research 102 (E6): 13,369–13,380. doi:10.1029/97JE00802, 
  26. Tittemore, W. C.; Wisdom, J. (1990). "Tidal evolution of the Uranian satellites III. Evolution through the Miranda-Umbriel 3:1, Miranda-Ariel 5:3, and Ariel-Umbriel 2:1 mean-motion commensurabilities". Icarus 85 (2): 394–443. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(90)90125-S, 
  27. Tittemore, W.C. (1990). "Tidal Heating of Ariel". Icarus 87: 110–139. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(90)90024-4, 
  28. Template:Source list/Grundy2006
  29. Widemann, Thomas; Sicardy, B.; Lellouch, E. (2008). "Upper Limits for a Titania's Atmosphere and for a Large KBO's Atmosphere From Stellar Occultations" in DPS meeting #40, #36.05., American Astronomical Society. 
  30. Template:Source list/Mousis2004

External linksEdit

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