The largest moon of Neptune, Triton, actually flew from the depths of outer space in the distant past. The scientists managed to find out what the strange object really is, so unlike its fellow humans.
Astronomers have long suspected that the huge moon of Triton is actually an “alien” who has invaded Neptune’s orbit. Recently, they finally managed to calculate how the other moons of this planet looked before their brother’s invasion. All other gas giants of the Solar System (Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus) share similar lunar systems. In each of them, the mass of the planet is about 10,000 times. For the most part, each planet has several small moons spinning in the same direction as it.
However, Neptune is different from its congeners. Its lunar system consists of several tiny moons that either swirl extremely close, or are spaced out over long distances. In addition, there is a huge Triton, which also rotates in the opposite direction. Is it strange? Of course!
Elephant in the china shop
Robin Kanup at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado and Raluka Rufu at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel used a series of computer simulations to find out what Neptune’s lunar system looked like before Triton appeared in it. Initially, as it turned out, it was similar to the similar system of Uranus – but it did not last long. “Triton figuratively and literally” broke into “Neptune’s orbit and introduced chaos into a well-organized system of moons,” explains Kanul.
To a system like the moons of Uranus, turned into what today’s astronomers are observing in Neptune’s orbit, there were to be three important factors. Firstly, the young moons should not have destroyed Triton at the time of the collision. Secondly, they had to slow down Triton in the process so that it would fall into a circular orbit, on which it rotates to this day. Finally, thirdly, the outer moons of Neptune had to remain untouched.
“The question is, how exactly did the planet manage to capture Triton in an oblong orbit, and then” translate “to a round one? To do this, it is necessary to dissipate some of the energy of the moon, so that it slows down, “notes Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington.
Kanul and Rufu found that the gravity of Triton literally flung out the smaller moons. He still encountered some of them and, having finally got the necessary slowdown, changed the orbit to a circular one. This process occurred quickly enough that the moon itself did not fly out of inertia beyond the gravity of the planet, so that it did not touch the outer orbital region and did not affect the moons that rotate away from Neptune.
Monster Frankensheitna in space
Unfortunately, it will be difficult to confirm this hypothesis even if we send a satellite to Triton. It is covered with ice that is in the state of cryo-melting: in places the ice melt and intends again, causing the entire cover of the planet to be in constant motion and all traces of the collision of Triton with other moons have long been erased by time.
On the other hand, if scientists manage to take samples of the planet’s soil, everything will immediately become clear. Triton is a moon, made of fragments of the original celestial body and pieces of those moons that it crushed when entering the orbit of Neptune. Astronomers jokingly compare it to the monster of Frankenstein – how to know, maybe this unusual nature actually contains many secrets?