Voyager 2, during its eight-year, 1.8 billion-mile journey, has discovered 26 previously unknown moons orbiting various planets, including 10 circling Uranus. It found the 10th new Uranian moon today.
This brings to 70 the number of known moons in the nine-planet solar system, 15 of them around Uranus.
The discoveries, however, raise the question of how the new moons will be named. They now have only numbers, identifying them by the year and the order in which they were found.
The five moons of Uranus known to exist before Voyager's mission were named years ago after characters in English literature -- Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon -- the only moons in the solar system not named for characters in Greek and Roman mythology.
Titania and Oberon were the queen and king of the Faeries in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Ariel was the jolly spirit and Umbriel the dour one in Alexander Pope's "Rape of the Lock." Miranda, smallest of the five known moons, was discovered in 1948 by the late American astronomer Gerald Kuiper, who named it by mistake after a character in Shakespeare's play "The Tempest."
"Kuiper thought the four other moons had been named from characters in "The Tempest," said Donna Pivorotto of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an amateur historian of solar system names. "So he named his new moon Miranda, who in 'The Tempest' was the daughter of Prospero, the magician."
One suggestion already made for one of the new moons is Prospero, Miranda's father. Another is Belinda, the heroine in "Rape of the Lock." A third suggestion: Ursula, a character in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," whose name sounds like the other moons.
No matter what names are chosen, members of the international science community will take years to deliberate the choices. They have yet to agree on names for the moons Voyager discovered around Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1981.
Saturn leads the solar system with 24 moons.