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Space Ballet: 2 Moons of Neptune perform extraordinarily Pas de Deux

The two innermost moons of Neptune are locked in an unusual "escape dance", their perfect choreography ensuring that the moons never get too close.

This is a difficult feat as their orbital paths are separated by only 1,150 miles (1,850 kilometers). But the moons themselves never come closer than within 2,200 miles (3,450 kilometers) – several hundred miles shorter than US latitude

If an observer looks at the orbits of the lunar extremes, they will see Moon Naiad sinks above and below its adjacent Talas because of its slightly inclined orbit. In addition, their dances are leveled so that for every 69 orbits of Talas, Naiad orbits 73 times. Then their choreography begins again.

Related: Photos of Neptune, the mysterious blue planet NASA jet engines in California, said in a statement . "There are many different types of 'dance' that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before.

Animation shows the paths of Nayad and Thalassa around Neptune.

(Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Resonances are common among the moons of giant planets, but usually these relationships are simpler than those between Talas and Naiad. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune together have dozens of these worlds to interact. Some of these moons have formed with planets, while some are former asteroids captured by the huge gravity of these planets.

Neptune has 14 confirmed moons. Naiad and Thalassa are both on the small side, each only 60 miles long. Studies show that Neptune's lunar system underwent a major change when it captured the giant moon Triton which caused a lot of chaos (and debris from the collisions of the moon) that eventually merged into newer ones. moons and rings.

"We suspect that Nayad was kicked into its tilted orbit by an earlier interaction with one of the other inner moons of Neptune," said Brozovic. "Only later, after establishing its orbital inclination, can Nayad

Astronomers study dance using the Hubble Space Telescope . The moonshots are not only interesting to see, but also provide information about the inner composition of the inner moons of Neptune, he said. their orbital motions allow astronomers to calculate the mass of those moons that appear to have a density close to that of water ice.

The study was published on Wednesday (November 13th) in Icarus magazine and is also available in format for preface to arXiv.org .

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook .

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