Thalassa (moon)
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Thalassa Moon
Neptune Trio.jpg
A Voyager 2 image of Thalassa (1989 N5), Naiad (1989 N6) and Despina (1989 N3)
Discovered byRichard J. Terrile[1] and Voyager Imaging Team
Discovery dateSeptember 1989
Orbital characteristics[2][3]
Epoch 18 August 1989
  • 0.21 ± 0.02° (to Neptune equator)
  • 0.21° (to local Laplace plane)
Satellite ofNeptune
Physical characteristics
Dimensions km[4][5]
Mean radius
Mean density
Temperature~51 K mean (estimate)

Thalassa ( th?-LASS-?; Greek: ?), also known as Neptune IV, is the second-innermost satellite of Neptune. Thalassa was named after sea goddess Thalassa, a daughter of Aether and Hemera from Greek mythology. "Thalassa" is also the Greek word for "sea".


Thalassa was discovered sometime before mid-September 1989 from the images taken by the Voyager 2 probe. It was given the temporary designation S/1989 N 5.[8] The discovery was announced (IAUC 4867) on September 29, 1989, and mentions "25 frames taken over 11 days", implying a discovery date of sometime before September 18. The name was given on 16 September 1991.[9]

Physical properties

Thalassa is irregularly shaped. It is likely that it is a rubble pile re-accreted from fragments of Neptune's original satellites, which were smashed up by perturbations from Triton soon after that moon's capture into a very eccentric initial orbit.[10] Unusually for irregular bodies, it appears to be roughly disk-shaped.


Since the Thalassian orbit is below Neptune's synchronous orbit radius, it is slowly spiralling inward due to tidal deceleration and may eventually impact Neptune's atmosphere, or break up into a planetary ring upon passing its Roche limit due to tidal stretching. Relatively soon after, the spreading debris may impinge upon Despina's orbit.

Thalassa is currently in a 69:73 orbital resonance with the innermost moon, Naiad, in a "dance of avoidance". As it orbits Neptune, the more inclined Naiad successively passes Thalassa twice from above and then twice from below, in a cycle that repeats every ~21.5 Earth days. The two moons are about 3540 km apart when they pass each other. Although their orbital radii differ by only 1850 km, Naiad swings ~2800 km above or below Thalassa's orbital plane at closest approach. Thus this resonance, like many such orbital correlations, serves to stabilize the orbits by maximizing separation at conjunction. However, the role of orbital inclination in maintaining this avoidance in a case where eccentricities are minimal is unusual.[11][7]

Simulated view of Thalassa orbiting Neptune


  1. ^ Planet Neptune Data
  2. ^ Jacobson, R. A.; Owen, W. M., Jr. (2004). "The orbits of the inner Neptunian satellites from Voyager, Earthbased, and Hubble Space Telescope observations". Astronomical Journal. 128 (3): 1412-1417. Bibcode:2004AJ....128.1412J. doi:10.1086/423037.
  3. ^ Showalter, M. R.; de Pater, I.; Lissauer, J. J.; French, R. S. (2019). "The seventh inner moon of Neptune" (PDF). Nature. 566 (7744): 350-353. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-0909-9.
  4. ^ a b Karkoschka, E. (2003). "Sizes, shapes, and albedos of the inner satellites of Neptune". Icarus. 162 (2): 400-407. Bibcode:2003Icar..162..400K. doi:10.1016/S0019-1035(03)00002-2.
  5. ^ Williams, D. R. (2008-01-22). "Neptunian Satellite Fact Sheet". NASA (National Space Science Data Center). Retrieved .
  6. ^ a b c "Planetary Satellite Physical Parameters". JPL (Solar System Dynamics). 2010-10-18. Retrieved 2019.
  7. ^ a b Brozovi?, M.; Showalter, M. R.; Jacobson, R. A.; French, R. S.; Lissauer, J. J.; de Pater, I. (October 31, 2019). "Orbits and resonances of the regular moons of Neptune" (PDF). Icarus. 338 (2): 113462. arXiv:1910.13612. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2019.113462.
  8. ^ Green, D. W. E. (September 29, 1989). "Neptune". IAU Circular. 4867. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Marsden, B. G. (September 16, 1991). "Satellites of Saturn and Neptune". IAU Circular. 5347. Retrieved 2011.
  10. ^ Banfield, D.; Murray, N. (October 1992). "A dynamical history of the inner Neptunian satellites". Icarus. 99 (2): 390-401. Bibcode:1992Icar...99..390B. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(92)90155-Z.
  11. ^ "NASA Finds Neptune Moons Locked in 'Dance of Avoidance'". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. November 14, 2019. Retrieved 2019.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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