Feeds

Neptune wooed Triton with magnetic charm

Stole passing moon from close companion

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

A pair of US scientists has come up with a plausible explanation as to how Neptune successfully captured its moon Triton - a process which had previously baffled boffins, who couldn't work out how the moon had lost sufficient energy to settle into a nice, comfy orbit rather than continuing on into the infinite yonder.

One previous theory suggested that Triton - which orbits in the opposite direction to Neptune's rotation in tell-tale captured-body style - must have collided with another satellite, the New Scientist notes. However, if this was small, the resulting collision would not have resulted in Triton's imprisonment; if it was big, Triton would have been pulverised in the process.

The answer is, according to Craig Agnor of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland in College Park, that Triton was making its way through the solar system with a companion body which acted like a "retro rocket".

The pair's calculations demonstrate that "as Triton and its partner drew close to Neptune, the giant planet's gravity overwhelmed the attraction between the pair with little regard for the size difference between the companions or the precise distance of the encounter".

We take this to mean that, in the interaction between the three bodies, Triton's chum acted as a sort of brake, allowing the former to take up position around Neptune. Having performed this thoughtful service, it was then "effectively cast off" and went on its lonely way.

The theory has found favour with planetary formation expert Richard Nelson of Queen Mary, University of London. He told NS: "The dynamics of three-body encounters are well studied, usually for three objects of similar mass, but this scenario sounds plausible to me." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.