tech2 NewsNovember 18, 2019 9:09:23 PM IST
Eighth planet in the solar system, Neptune has 14 moons and they all rotate around the planet at their own pace. Recently, scientists at NASA's Jet Aircraft Laboratory (JPL) have discovered that two of the ice giant's moons – Nayad and Talasa – are locked in a "dance of evasion".
These two Neptune satellites are approximately one another 1,850 kilometers apart. When they cross each other, they are about 3,540 kilometers apart.
Najad moves much faster than Talasa and dances around the other moon in an attempt to avoid a head-on collision. They do not collide with each other because Najad's orbit is tilted about 5 degrees. Najad takes seven hours to complete a rotation around Neptune while Talasa completes it in seven and a half hours.
If you live in Talasa, you will see Nayad climbing up and down in a zigzag pattern, passing twice from above and then twice below. While scientists do not know how the two moons ended up in this routine, they have several theories to work with.
The first possibility is that the original satellite system was disrupted when Neptune captured its giant moon Triton, which led to the inner moons and rings that formed from the remnants of debris. [Neptunes has a total of six rings.]
"We suspect Najad was thrown into his tilted orbit by interacting with one of Neptune's other inner moons," said Marina Bozovic, a PPP solar system dynamics expert at press release. "Only later, after his orbital tilt was established, could Najad settle down in this unusual resonance with the Thalassa."
"Najad and Talasa are probably locked into this configuration for a very long time because it makes their orbits more stable. They keep the peace by never approaching it," said Mark Showalter, planetary astronomer at SETI Institute and co-author. of the new paper in a press release.
Data collected between 1981 and 2016 by NASA's Hubble Telescope and Voyager 2 (the only spacecraft to visit Neptune first to exit the Solar System) and other Earth-based telescopes helped discover this unusual orbital pattern. The study also said that the moon is largely composed of water ice.
The study and its findings were published in newspaper Icarus.
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