The moon and the planets

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 43-62

First online:

Formation of the regular satellite systems and rings of the major planets

  • A. J. R. PrenticeAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Monash University
  • , D. Ter HaarAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Monash University

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In this paper, we apply the ideas presented by one of us (Prentice, 1978a, b) for the development of the proto-solar cloud into a system of Laplacian rings to the development of the protoplanetary clouds which ultimately led to Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. We show that if one accepts this scenario — especially the idea of supersonic turbulence in the proto-planetary clouds — one can satisfactorily explain, on the basis of fixing a single adjustable parameter, both the geometric precession of the orbital radii of the regular satellite systems of these three planets and the chemical composition and mass distribution of these satellites. We suggest that thermal stirring in the proto-planetary cloud in the vicinity of the surface of the planet may be responsible for the smaller masses of some of the inner satellites as well as for the formation of the rocky rings of Uranus. The icy rings of Saturn are suggested to be the product of condensation processes in a continuous gaseous disc within the Roche limit of the planet.