Most of the planets in the Solar System have natural satellites — the Earth, for example, has the Moon, a satellite whose surface is covered with marks from past volcano eruptions, as well as craters opened by impacts from the most diverse space rocks. Although the Moon is the most familiar natural satellite to us, there are others that orbit the other planets in our vicinity — and they are as interesting as ours, if not more so.
While Mars has a pair of curious moons, each of the giant planets in the outer Solar System has a varied group of natural satellites, and most of them were formed with these worlds, from the same material, and have characteristics that make them worlds. mysterious and intriguing. Mimas, for example, is a moon of Saturn that has been frozen for a long time and has marks from the objects that hit it; Nereid, moon of Neptune, shows the results of gravitational interactions with neighboring objects.
Meet some of the weirdest moons in the Solar System and learn more about them:
Want to catch up on the best tech news of the day? Access and subscribe to our new youtube channel, Canaltech News. Everyday a summary of the main news from the tech world for you!
Phobos and Deimos, moons of Mars
At first glance, Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos may not look all that interesting, but be aware that they are of great value to scientists. Note that their foamrto is much more reminiscent of an asteroid than the moons themselves — and, despite meeting several requirements that allow them to be considered as asteroids captured by the gravity of Mars, there is something important missing for this: both orbit the equator of planet in a circular orbit.
This suggests that they are the remnants of debris that orbited the Red Planet in the past, therefore. Although scientists still don’t know exactly where these moons came from, we can already speculate where they are headed: Phobos is slowly traveling towards Mars, getting 1.8 m closer every century. Then, in about 50 million years, it will crash into the planet or break up.
Iapetus, moon of Saturn
The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and, during its mission, it provided us with many incredible discoveries about Saturn and some of its moons. In addition, the probe also helped to reveal some of the strangest and most peculiar features of Iapetus, one of the gas giant’s moons. For example, while all major Saturnian moons orbit the planet following the plane of their rings, Iapetus is “against” and has a different inclination than its neighbors.
Furthermore, its surface also attracts attention. For when Iapetus was discovered in 1671, it turned out to be a much darker moon when viewed from one side of its orbit than the other, because one hemisphere is dark brown in color while the other is light gray. The reasons behind these differences are not yet known for sure, but they could be caused by dust from small meteorites or the sublimation of ice on the surface.
Hyperion, moon of Saturn
This is the largest non-spherical moon that we know of in the Solar System, and it may even have been a more spherical and irregular satellite in the past, which took on this shape after the impact of a large object. Hyperion (or Hyperion) is shaped like a potato and has three axes, always interacting gravitationally with the moon Titan, which prevents it from traveling in a circular orbit. Thus, it takes 13 days to complete a loop around itself in its orbit, which takes 21 days.
The surface texture of this moon signals the various impacts that have taken place, which have gone deeper and do not appear to have ejected material. This background, added to the moon’s low density and porous surface, may perhaps help explain why its appearance is so unique.
Triton, Neptune’s Moon
Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is approximately 2,700 km in diameter, but travels around the planet in a circular orbit, in the opposite direction to that of Neptune. This shows that the moon did not form close to the planet, so perhaps it is simply an object that was captured by its gravity and stayed there.
To make things even more curious, Triton has active geysers on its surface, which release gaseous materials at low temperatures that are apparently composed of nitrogen and dust. Furthermore, the surface of this moon appears to be made of cold materials coming from its interior. And it’s not over: some compare the surface of Triton, with its hollows and cracks of unknown origin, to that of a melon’s rind.
Enceladus, moon of Saturn
Enceladus, a moon 504 km in diameter, was supposed to be a completely frozen “ball” like many of its neighbors in Saturn’s system. But that’s not exactly what we see there: thanks to the tidal forces caused by gravitational interactions between Saturn and the moon Dione, which engage in a “tug of war”, Enceladus’ interior is hot and active, making it a great place to search for life under its frozen crust.
Thus, this moon is one of the most intensely studied — and scientific interest in it has grown even more intense after the discovery of plumes of ice water released into space, expelled through fissures in its southern hemisphere, as this indicates there is liquid water under the layer of ice that surrounds its surface.
Io, moon of Jupiter
Io is a moon that can easily be considered one of the most interesting in the Solar System for a number of reasons. In addition to its surface constantly changing its appearance, Io has more than 100 active volcanoes, some of which are constantly spewing out compounds. In the cooler regions, the sulfur released is solidified and turns a greenish-yellow color, while the whitish regions contain solid sulfur dioxide.
All this heat and constant eruptions are the result of the radioactive decay of materials, caused by the gravity of Jupiter and the moon Europa. These interactions cause Io to contract and expand, creating enough heat to release 100 trillion watts of energy.
atlas, moon of saturn
Can you imagine a moon that doesn’t have the typical spherical shape, but something that resembles a flying saucer? Yes, this is the shape of the moon Atlas, a natural satellite of Saturn with a radius of 15 km. This moon is one of the innermost of the gas giant, and its structure, say, “alien” is due to a geological structure that extends along its equator.
It is not yet known exactly how this structure formed, but it is possible that it is related to the diameter of the moon and Saturn’s rings. Because Atlas and other moons are much larger than the objects that make up the ring, they can aggregate materials at their equator as they travel through particles.
Nereid, moon of Neptune
Nereid was the second moon discovered in orbit around Neptune, and this is a natural satellite of extremes. Its distance from the planet varies between 1.4 million and 9.7 million kilometers, a typical characteristic of satellites captured by the planet’s immense gravity. But actually, Nereid’s story may be even more interesting.
Although data from the Voyager 2 spacecraft indicates that the moon Triton was captured from the Kuiper Belt and, as a consequence, “knocked out” several of Neptune’s original moons, it is possible that Nereid is one of them, which escaped the gravitational pull of its neighbor because it was “stuck” in Neptune’s gravitational reach, and had its orbit disturbed by Triton.
Miranda, moon of Uranus
There are those who consider this moon as one of the strangest in the Solar System, and it is not without reason: the images from the Voyager spacecraft showed that this moon is a kind of “patchwork”, because it joins different terrains in a random way (at least, Apparently). Also, this moon has a pattern of oval structures on its surface, reminiscent of racing circuits.
This is a moon that orbits Uranus in an almost circular trajectory, but has orbital resonance with the moon Umbriel in the past. As a result, the two were often aligned, which meant that Miranda ended up in an elliptical and elongated orbit, which received the effect of extreme tidal forces. With that, the surface of the moon splintered and recomposed itself before the moons moved again and Miranda slowed down.
Mimas, moon of saturn
In the 1980s, scientists and the public were shocked by what the first images of Saturn’s moon Mimas showed: the moon bore a striking resemblance to the franchise’s Death Star Star Wars, thanks to a large crater in one of its hemispheres, which is almost the size and shape of the planet-destroying antenna in fiction. But, of course, Mimas has intriguing features that go beyond this coincidence.
Despite measuring only 396 km in diameter, this is the substantial innermost moon of Saturn, making it the smallest object in the Solar System known to be spherical in shape due to its own gravity. The most likely reason for this is the low density of Mimas, which is only 15% higher than that of water.
Did you like this article?
Subscribe your email on Canaltech to receive daily updates with the latest news from the world of technology.