Collisional Disruption of Natural Satellites
The evidence indicating that many natural satellites have been disrupted by energetic impacts during the history of the solar system is briefly reviewed. Several satellites over a wide size range show giant craters close to the threshold for catastrophic breakup. Many small moons have very irregular shapes, suggesting that they are fragments from larger precursor bodies. Ejecta from the fragmentation of satellites in many cases may stay in planetocentric orbits, forming ring systems, reaccumulating into newly-born satellites or surviving thanks to dynamical protection mechanisms. In one satellite breakup case, that of Hyperion, the fall of a massive fragment shower onto Titan may have generated or substantially changed the composition of its dense atmosphere.
KeywordsGiant Planet Parent Body Natural Satellite Planetary Ring Irregular Satellite
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