Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2015 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, Daniele L. Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, Michel Viso

Roche Limit

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_1383



The Roche limit is the orbital distance below which a satellite is tidally destroyed by the body around which it is orbiting. Édouard Roche is the French astronomer who first calculated this theoretical limit in 1848.


Tidal forces are simply the difference in gravitational forces felt by different parts of an extended body. The force of gravity felt by a satellite orbiting a primary body (e.g., by a moon orbiting a planet or a planet orbiting a star) decreases as the inverse square of the orbital distance such that different parts of the satellite feel different gravitational forces. From the point of view of the satellite, this results in a stretching because the side that is closest to the primary body is pulled more strongly than the side farthest from the primary (see Fig. 1).


Gravitation Stability Tidal effect 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Further Reading

  1. Hammeury JM (2000) Géométrie de Roche. Ecole de Goutelas XXIII. http://astro.u-strasbg.fr/goutelas/g2000/roche.pdf (in French)
  2. Murray CD, Dermott SF (1999) Solar system dynamics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeMATHGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Mathematics LaboratoryENSTA ParisTechParis Cedex 15France