Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Planet rings could be behind the formation of solar system satellites

Date:
December 4, 2012
Source:
Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA)
Summary:
Two researchers have recently proposed the first ever model explaining how the great majority of regular satellites in our solar system were formed out of planet rings. The model, the only one of its kind, was first tested in 2010 on Saturn's moons. It seems to account for the present distribution of “giant” planets and also explains how the satellites of the “terrestrial” planets such as Earth or Pluto  came into being. These results are a major step forward in understanding and explaining the formation of planet systems across the universe.

An artist's impression of our solar system with separate representations of scale and size.
Credit: NASA

Two French researchers have recently proposed the first ever model explaining how the great majority of regular satellites in our solar system were formed out of planet rings. The model, the only one of its kind, was first tested in 2010 on Saturn's moons. It seems to account for the present distribution of "giant" planets and also explains how the satellites of the "terrestrial" planets such as Earth or Pluto came into being. These results are a major step forward in understanding and explaining the formation of planet systems across the universe.

The results of this research are published in the Nov. 30, 2012 edition of Science.

There is a fundamental difference between giant planet systems, such as Jupiter and Saturn, and the terrestrial plants, such as Earth or Pluto. Whereas the giants are surrounded by rings and a myriad of small natural satellites, the terrestrial planets have few moons, or just one, and no rings. Until now, two models have been commonly used to explain the presence of regular satellites in our solar system. These indicate that the satellites of the terrestrial planets like Earth or Pluto were formed following a giant collision. They also indicate that the satellites of the giant planets were formed in a nebula surrounding the planet. They do not, however, account for the specific distribution and chemical composition of the satellites orbiting the giant planets. Another theory therefore seemed necessary.

In 2010 and 2011, a French research team developed a new model to describe how Saturn's moons came into being based on numerical simulations and Cassini probe data. The researchers discovered that Saturn's rings, which are very thin disks made up of small blocks of ice surrounding the planet, in turn gave birth to ice satellites. This is due to the fact that the rings spread over time and, when they reach a certain distance from the planet (known as the Roche limit or Roche radius), their ends agglomerate and form small bodies that break off and move away. This is how rings give birth to satellites orbiting the planet.

In this new study, two research lecturers, Aurélien Crida from the Université Nice Sophia Antipolis and the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur and Sébastien Charnoz from the Université Paris Diderot and the CEA, set out to test the new model and discover whether it could be extended to other planets. Their calculations have brought several important facts to light. This model for satellite formation from planet rings explains why the largest satellites are located farther away from the planet than the smaller satellites. It also points to the accumulation of satellites close to the Roche limit, their "place of birth," on the outer edge of the rings. This distribution is in perfect agreement with Saturn's planetary system. The same model can also apply to the satellites of the giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, which are organized according to a similar layout. This suggests that these planets once had massive rings similar to Saturn's, which they then lost in giving birth to their satellites. Lastly, the model could also be applied to the formation of terrestrial planet satellites. And, according to the researchers' calculations, special cases exist where a single satellite may be formed from the ring around the planet. This is the case for Earth and the Moon, and for Pluto and Charon.

Thus, this planetary ring spreading mechanism alone could explain how the great majority of regular satellites were formed in our solar system.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Crida, S. Charnoz. Formation of Regular Satellites from Ancient Massive Rings in the Solar System. Science, 2012; 338 (6111): 1196 DOI: 10.1126/science.1226477

Cite This Page:

Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA). "Planet rings could be behind the formation of solar system satellites." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121204112012.htm>.
Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA). (2012, December 4). Planet rings could be behind the formation of solar system satellites. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121204112012.htm
Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA). "Planet rings could be behind the formation of solar system satellites." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121204112012.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) — Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) — The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) — Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins