A strange waltz around a blue ice giant

Strange things happen in the cold twilight of the outer Solar System. In this faraway region, four giant planets beckon observers on Earth with their tantalizing treasure trove of delicious, shocking, bizarre, and wildly wonderful mysteries. Banded, beautiful, blue ice giant Neptune is the most distant giant planet from our Sun, as well as the smallest of the quartet of outer gas worlds. But even by the weird standards of the outer Solar System, certain oddities stand out in this crowd of weirdos. Such an outstanding oddity is the strange waltz of escape performed by the innermost duo of Neptune’s icy moons. In November 2019, astronomers announced that the tiny Neptunian moons, Naiad Y Thalassathey’re in orbits that bring them within just 1,150 miles of each other, but the two moons never get close enough to dance.

Orbital dynamics experts refer to this strange performance as an “avoidance dance.” The two small moons are close to each other, but nevertheless manage to stay far enough apart to avoid a close encounter. This is because naiad the orbit is tilted and perfectly timed. Every time this little moon passes the slow motion Thalassathe duo are about 2,200 miles apart.

While this strange ballet of the moons is performed, Naiad it orbits its parent planet every seven hours. Meanwhile, the Thalassa dance on the outer path lasts seven and a half hours. If an earthling were to stand on Thalassaand looked in amazement at his strange alien sky, it would seem that naiad the orbit creates a strange and wild zigzag pattern, passing twice from above and then twice from below. This rather strange performance occurs over and over again as Naiad acquires four lapses on his partner Thalassa.

Although this distant dance may seem strange, it has a definite purpose. It keeps the orbits of the small moons stable.

“We refer to this repetitive pattern as a resonance. There are many different kinds of ‘dances’ that planets, moons, and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before,” Dr. Marina Brozovic said in a NASA release dated November 14, 2019. Press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Dr. Brozovic is the lead author of the paper describing this research, which was published on November 13, 2019, in the journal Icarus.

In the distant domain of the giant planets

In the distant domain of the quartet of giant planets, far from the powerful pull of our Star, the planets themselves are the main sources of gravity. Collectively, the gas quartet sports a myriad of mostly icy moons, and some of those moons were born at the same time as their parent planet, and never strayed far from their birthplace. In contrast, some of the other moons were caught up later in their planet’s history and then locked into orbits controlled by their parent planets. Some of these many moons circle in the opposite direction to their planet’s direction of rotation, while others swap orbits with each other as if to avoid a catastrophic collision.

The four giant planets of the outer Solar System are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Neptune and Uranus are classified as ice giantswhile Jupiter and Saturn are classified as gas giants. Both ice giants they are covered by thick gaseous atmospheres which are, however, much thinner than those possessed by the much larger gas giant duo. Also, Uranus and Neptune contain larger solid cores than Jupiter and Saturn, and both are smaller than the huge gas giants.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) detected Neptune on December 28, 1612. Galileo used his primitive “catalog”, one of the first telescopes used for astronomical purposes, to make his discovery of the outermost known giant planet in our Solar System. He redetected Neptune for the second time on January 27, 1613. Unfortunately, both times Galileo mistook this distant world for a fixed star located near the planet Jupiter. Due to this unfortunate case of mistaken scientific identity, Galileo is not generally credited with the discovery of Neptune.

NASA traveler 2 spaceship zoomed past the larger blue-green something ice Giant, Uranus, in 1989, sending back to Earth some interesting images of Neptune that revealed a beautiful sapphire-blue banded world. Those early images of Neptune also showed rotating point-shaped storms that were eerily similar to hurricanes on Earth. Neptune’s bands and streaks have different shades of blue and were formed as a result of atmospheric methane, not oxygen. Some of Neptune’s storms look like swirling white marshmallows.

traveler 2 it also managed to be the first spacecraft to detect Neptune’s Great Dark Spot in 1989. The Great Dark Spot it was an anticyclonic storm that extended 19,000 X 6,000 kilometers, and astronomers on Earth immediately noted the resemblance between this distant Neptunian storm and the one on Jupiter. Great Red Spot. However, several years later, on November 2, 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) did not detect the Great Dark Spot–which had apparently disappeared. Instead, HST discovered a new storm, which was very similar to the Great Dark Spotin the northern hemisphere of Neptune.

Neptune itself is not visible to the unaided human eye, and it is the only planet in our Solar System that has been discovered by mathematical prediction rather than direct observation. Unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus led the French astronomer Alexis Bouvard (1767-1843) to mathematically determine that the orbit of Uranus was being influenced by the gravitational pull of an undiscovered planet. As a result, Neptune was discovered with a telescope on September 23, 1846 by the German astronomer Johann Galle (1812-1911). Galle discovered Neptune within one degree of the position previously predicted by the French mathematician and astronomer Urbain Le Verrier (1811-1877). Not long after Neptune’s discovery, its largest moon, Triton, was discovered. None of the planet’s remaining known moons were telescopically detected until the 20th century.

Neptune’s distance from our planet makes it appear small in Earth’s sky, making it difficult for astronomers to observe with ground-based telescopes. the space telescope HSTin conjunction with large ground-based telescopes, recently provided a treasure trove of detailed observations from afar using the technique of adaptive optics. adaptive optics it is a method that corrects for distortions resulting from temperature, wind, and mechanical stress by deforming a mirror to compensate for this distortion.

Like the other gas giant planets that inhabit the outer Solar System, Neptune has many moons and a cobweb ring system. Neptune’s rings are fragmented and very faint, and are known as bows. Tea bows were first discovered in 1982, and were later confirmed by the traveler 2 spacecraft.

Neptune has 14 known moons. neso it is the furthest Neptunian moon from its parent planet, and its orbit creates a strange elliptical loop that takes it almost 46 million miles away from Neptune. neso it takes 27 years to complete a single orbit.

A strange heavenly waltz

Naiad Y Thalassa they are very small lunar worlds whose shape has been compared to “Tic Tacs”. Both small moons are only about 60 miles across. As two of Neptune’s seven inner moons, Naiad Y Thalassa they are members of a densely populated system that is intricately intermingled with faint Neptune bow rings

How did this strange duo end up so close and so far apart? Astronomers propose that the original system of moons was interrupted when Neptune’s powerful gravitational pull trapped its large moon, Triton. As a result, the inner moons and rings were born from the debris left behind in the wake of this ancient calamity.

Triton is going around Neptune in the wrong direction. This usually indicates a captured object that was not spawned at your current position. Triton may be an unhappy wanderer from the Kuiper belt that it traveled too close to Neptune’s gravitational embrace and thus became a moon of one of the major planets in our Solar System. Tea Kuiper belt it is a region beyond Neptune that is home to a population of objects of varying sizes and is considered to be home to frozen comet nuclei. In the future, Triton’s orbit will likely decay to the point of plunging into his adoptive parent planet.

“We suspect that Naiad it was propelled into its tilted orbit by an earlier interaction with one of Neptune’s other inner moons. Only later, after its orbital inclination was established, could Naiad settle into this unusual resonance with Thalassa,” Dr. Brozovic explained on November 14, 2019 JPL press release.

Dr. Brozovic and her team uncovered the strange orbital drama by analyzing observations made by HST. His work also provides the first indication of the internal composition of Neptune’s inner moons. Scientists used the observations to calculate their mass and thus determine their densities, which turned out to be similar to that of water ice.

Dr. Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and a co-author of the paper, told reporters that “Naiad Y Thalassa They’ve probably been locked together in this configuration for a long time, because it makes their orbits more stable. They keep the peace by never getting too close.”

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