Dynamical History of the Uranian System

26 May 2020  ·  Ćuk Matija, Moutamid Maryame El, Tiscareno Matthew S. ·

We numerically simulate the past tidal evolution of the five large moons of Uranus (Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon). We find that the most recent major mean-motion resonance (MMR) between any two moons, the Ariel-Umbriel 5:3 MMR, had a large effect on the whole system... Our results suggest that this resonance is responsible for the current 4.3$^{\circ}$ inclination of Miranda (instead of previously proposed 3:1 Miranda-Umbriel MMR), and that all five moons had their inclinations excited during this resonance. Miranda experienced significant tidal heating during the Ariel-Umbriel 5:3 MMR due to its eccentricity being excited by Ariel's secular perturbations. This tidal heating draws energy from shrinking of Miranda's orbit, rather than Ariel's outward evolution, and can generate heat flows in excess of 100 mW m$^{-2}$, sufficient to produce young coronae on Miranda. We find that this MMR was followed by a sequence of secular resonances, which reshuffled the moons' eccentricities and inclinations. We also find that the precession of Oberon's spin axis is close to a resonance with the precession of Umbriel's orbital plane, and that this spin-orbit resonance was likely excited during the Ariel-Umbriel 5:3 MMR. After the exit from the MMR, subsequent Ariel-Umbriel secular resonance and Oberon-Umbriel spin-orbit resonance may be able to explain the current low inclinations of Ariel and Umbriel. The age of Miranda's surface features tentatively suggests Uranian tidal $Q=15,000-20,000$, which can be further refined in future work. read more

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics