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
FEB 03, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Get Ready for the Red Planet: Perseverance Set to Land in Two Weeks
FEB 03, 2021
Get Ready for the Red Planet: Perseverance Set to Land in Two Weeks
NASA's Perseverance Rover will be reaching Mars soon and it will have to go through a seven minute descent before we kno ...
FEB 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Electrical Storms, Disaster & Auroras From a Flipping Magnetic Field
FEB 21, 2021
Electrical Storms, Disaster & Auroras From a Flipping Magnetic Field
As we move through space, the magnetic field of the planet, which (the dynamo theory states is) generated by its metal c ...
MAR 06, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Find Tectonic Activity on Exoplanet
MAR 06, 2021
Astronomers Find Tectonic Activity on Exoplanet
For the first time, researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland have found evidence of tectonic activity on a ...
APR 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
The Stardust That Made Us & Our Planet
APR 08, 2021
The Stardust That Made Us & Our Planet
You may know that the human body is made up of elements that almost all originated in stars, and many of those elements ...
JUN 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
JUN 21, 2021
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
An international team led by researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland and the National Centre of Competenc ...
JUL 26, 2021
Space & Astronomy
A Moon-Forming Disc is Observed Surrounding an Exoplanet
JUL 26, 2021
A Moon-Forming Disc is Observed Surrounding an Exoplanet
Researchers have been able to detect a disc surrounding an exoplanet called PDS 70c with the Atacama Large Millimeter/su ...
Loading Comments...