Neptune’s moon Naiad employs some slick choreographic moves to avoid crashing into its near partner Thalassa as the pair closely orbit the ice giant, new research by NASA shows.
Two of Neptune’s 14 confirmed moons, Thalassa and Naiad are only 60 miles (100km) wide. The tiny Tic-Tac-shaped objects orbit just 1,150 miles (1,850km) apart but never collide.
This happens because, unlike our Moon, which simply circles around Earth, Naiad swirls around Neptune in a zigzag-like pattern, perfectly timed to avoid crashing into its ‘partner’ Thalassa, NASA explained. Experts have dubbed this crazy choreography a “dance of avoidance.”
“There are many different types of ‘dances’ that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before,” Marina Brozovic, a researcher at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.
Brozovic noted that Naiad was likely “kicked” into its unusual orbit by an earlier “interaction” with one of Neptune’s other moons, after which it became locked in a perpetual dance with Thalassa.
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