Scientists have discovered a unusual pattern between two of Neptune's 14 moons.
"The big picture is that moons don't like to get too close to each other when they orbit a planet", Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute and a co-author of the new paper, told Salon.
These two Neptunian satellites are fairly close to one other - some 1,850 kilometres apart.
If you were stationed on Thalassa, you'd see Naiad passing above and below in a pattern that would repeat itself every four loops, as Naiad repeatedly laps its neighbour.
This happens because, unlike our moon, which is just a circle around the Earth, the water fairies revolves around Neptune in a zigzag-like pattern, the flawless time to avoid crashing into "partners" it Thalassa, NASA explained.
"We refer to this repeating pattern as a resonance", Marina Brozovic, a solar system dynamics scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "There are many different types of "dances" that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before".
Naiad and Thalassa are tiny-shaped like Tic Tacs, traversing only about 60 miles (100 kilometers) in length.
New research released by NASA reported odd movements in Neptune's two innermost moons, even by the extreme standards of space. Like a choreographed dance, NASA's scientists noted that the orbits of the moons prevent them from colliding into one another. Neso, the farthest of them all, orbits in an elliptical loop almost 46 million miles (74 million kilometers) away from the planet.
They are two of Neptune's seven inner moons, part of a closely-packed system interwoven with faint rings.
"Naiad and Thalassa have probably been locked together in this configuration for a very long time, because it makes their orbits more stable".
Researchers noticed the unique path using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
"We suspect that Naiad was kicked into its tilted orbit by an earlier interaction with one of Neptune's other inner moons", Dr. Brozović said.
The study had also been able to take the first steps toward determining the composition of Neptune's inner moons, which seem to be built up of something comparable to water ice. "Only later, after its orbital tilt was established, could Naiad settle into this unusual resonance withThalassa". However, they have never seen such a phenomenon before.
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