It occurred to me that one of the ringed asteroids or minor planets may answer this question about the alignment of planetary rings. However, it appears that the rings of Chariklo, Haumea and Chiron (possible rings) are within a few degrees of the plane of rotation of the asteroid.

My thinking was that minor planets with low gravity may be able to capture/maintain moons at a higher orbital inclination than larger planets, and those moons will not be in distant orbits as described here. Satellites could also be formed by collisions and their spin evolution is described in this article. I think there may be an argument that the YORP effect and other tumbling or precession effects could lead to unusual orbital attitudes for natural satellites perhaps?

There are four hundred and sixteen minor planets that have moons, are any of those moons known to orbit at high inclinations to the plane of rotation of the parent body?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is going to be quite hard to answer as the Axial Tilt is unknown for most of the minor planets. $\endgroup$
    – Connor Garcia
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 15:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ConnorGarcia You're right! I started trawling through the data here: johnstonsarchive.net/astro/asteroidmoons.html but the orbital inclination is not shown/known for most satellites of minor planets. I did find a paper at sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0019103511004532 that is paywalled but the abstract suggests (if I read it correctly) that for the 18 asteroids surveyed, the pole of the binary orbit is within 30 degrees of the pole of the ecliptic. I'll keep looking. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 13:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The full text is also publicly available here: researchgate.net/publication/… Maybe someone knows of an example offhand. My intuition is that 1.) non-equatorial orbits are probably not as stable as equatorial orbits due to the equatorial bulge and tidal locking and 2.) Most moon capture and formation models will result in near equatorial moon orbits. $\endgroup$
    – Connor Garcia
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @ConnorGarcia That's fantasitc, thanks very much! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 19:46


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .