SEP 06, 2017 11:21 AM PDT

Are Some of Uranus' Moons Set to Collide With One Another?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Not only does Uranus rotate almost completely on its side, an unusual sort of behavior for any planet in our solar system, but new research illustrates how even the planet’s moons and rings aren’t without their quirks.

Uranus is an icy giant planet with many secrets that we've yet to uncover.

Image Credit: WikiImages/Pixabay

Computer simulations rendered by astronomers from the University of Idaho and Wellesley College in Massachusetts highlight inconsistencies with one of the Uranus' rings and predict how a handful of the planet’s moons could be destined to smack into one another.

A paper describing the findings is published on arXiv.org.

The astronomers made these discoveries by accident while studying Eta, the collection of planetary rings surrounding Uranus. As they peered at the rings, it became apparent that one was slightly triangular instead of round; this was the first clue of something strange going on.

A closer look at the extraordinary situation revealed that Cressida, a small moon orbiting Uranus, was skewing the ring’s shape through gravitational influence. Observations of the gravitational tugging enabled astronomers to estimate Cressida’s mass, which came out to 1/300,000th that of our own Moon's while measuring a mere 82 kilometers across and exhibiting porous qualities.

But if the abnormal shape of the ring wasn’t strange enough, the simulations also revealed how Cressida is tugging on another of Uranus’ moons called Desdemona and pulling it closer, which could result in a collision within one million years or so.

The unfortunate events won’t end there; two additional moons, Cupid and Belinda, could be destined for a similar fate within approximately the same timeframe (if not earlier).

It wouldn’t be the first time that some of Uranus’ moons collided; in fact, NASA believes that much of the debris orbiting Uranus right now is the aftermath of similar collisions that occurred previously.

In total, Uranus has 27 known moons. Compared to Jupiter and Saturn, which each boast more than 60 natural satellites, that’s not much. On the other hand, it’s difficult to study Uranus because of how far away it is from Earth, so there could be more.

Related: Hubble reveals Uranus' version of the Aurora Borealis

We won’t know for sure what’s going on until NASA officially sends a probe over to Uranus to study the circumstances, but that’s not expected to happen for at least a couple more decades. Despite the long wait, the information we uncover will undoubtedly be worth it.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 30, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Boom! It's Asteroid Day
JUN 30, 2021
Boom! It's Asteroid Day
In this NASA image from Bill Ingalls, a meteor can be seen in the sky, one far less destructive than the asteroid that c ...
JUL 03, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronauts Perform CRISPR Gene Editing in Space
JUL 03, 2021
Astronauts Perform CRISPR Gene Editing in Space
NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have developed and successfully carried out a CRISPR-Cas9 p ...
JUL 17, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Solar Radio Signals Improve Monitoring of Melting Ice Sheets
JUL 17, 2021
Solar Radio Signals Improve Monitoring of Melting Ice Sheets
Solar radio signals from the sun could provide a cheaper and low-power way of monitoring vast expanses of ice sheets, an ...
SEP 01, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
New Study Suggests One-third of Binary Stars Have Engulfed Their Planets
SEP 01, 2021
New Study Suggests One-third of Binary Stars Have Engulfed Their Planets
While our solar system is relatively calm and inert, some sun-like stars out there will literally eat the planets in the ...
NOV 24, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Deep Learning Tool Identifies 301 New Exoplanets
NOV 24, 2021
Deep Learning Tool Identifies 301 New Exoplanets
Scientists have announced the discovery of a huge number of new planets. The 301 newly identified exoplanets will join 4 ...
JAN 22, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Earth Ocean Physics and Jupiter Cyclones
JAN 22, 2022
Earth Ocean Physics and Jupiter Cyclones
Arriving at Jupiter in 2016, the NASA-funded Juno spacecraft has been beaming back the most detailed and jaw-dropping im ...
Loading Comments...