Neptune’s solar system is thought to be a very strange place, according to foreign media. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reinforced the concept Friday by sharing strange orbits of two Neptune’s Naiad and Thalassa satellites. JPL researchers say the satellites are locked in an “unprecedented dance of escape.”
Naiad and Thalassa are two internal satellites of Neptune, with a total of 14 satellites. NASA says both satellites are more than 60 miles in diameter. The orbits of the two satellites are only about 1,150 miles apart, and Naiad takes about seven hours to orbit Neptune for a week, while Thalassa takes seven and a half hours.
Naiad’s orbit is tilted by about 5 degrees compared to Thealassa’s. This tilted orbit means that Naiad rotates in waves around Neptune, which in turn keeps the orbits of the two satellites stable. JPL wrote on its website: “Observers in Thalassa will see Naiad’s orbit jagged, passing from above twice and then twice below. This upward, downward pattern is repeated each time Naiad completes four laps. “
NASA calls the dance “resonance” and describes the interaction between the two satellites in a new paper. The paper’s lead author, Marina Brozovi, works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to study solar system dynamics.
Many different types of resonances may occur on planets and satellites, but such resonances between Naiad and Thalassa have never been seen, Brozovi? Brozovi? also said the team in charge of the paper believes That Naiad’s tilted orbit may have been the product of an encounter with another internal satellite, allowing it to lock in resonance with Thalassa in the future.
In addition to detailing this fascinating interaction between Neptune’s two satellites, JPL’s work for the paper also enabled researchers to determine the mass and density of these satellites, which were close to water ice.