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Watch: The Cosmic 'Dance of Avoidance' that Keeps Two of Neptune's Moons from Crashing

Naiad and Thalassa, two of the tiny moons that orbit Neptune are located at a mere distance of 1,850 kilometers.

News18.com

Updated:November 19, 2019, 3:03 PM IST
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Watch: The Cosmic 'Dance of Avoidance' that Keeps Two of Neptune's Moons from Crashing
How two of Neptune's moons avoid each other through an eternal dance of avoidance | Image credit: NASA

In an unprecedented phenomenon, scientists have discovered that two of Neptune's moons are engaged in a constant "dance of avoidance", ensuring that the two do not bump into each other as they orbit the ice planet.

Naiad and Thalassa, two of the tiny moons that orbit Neptune are located at a mere distance of 1,850 kilometers. However, the tiny moons that span just about a hundred kilometers in length defy gravity and resist from crashing into each other by using what scientists are referring to as "resonance". The discovery was made though NASA's Hubble Telescope by a team led by Marina Brozovic.

Resonance is the zig-zag (up up-down down) pattern in which Naiad moved every time it approaches Talassa. Upon nearing slower moving Thalassa, Naiad starts to orbit in a zig zag motion, ensuring thatthe two satellites are separated by a distance of over 3,000 kilometers when passing each other.

This cosmic choreography ensures that the two moons, part of the close-knit system of inner moons around Neptune, never come in each other's way. The phenomenon is extremely rare and this is the first time such a "dance" of planetary bodies has been observed.

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