Collisional processes and transfer of mass among the planetary satellites
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Several pairs of planetary satellites may have been involved, during the history of the Solar System, in mutual mass transfer processes. Such processes can be triggered by catastrophic collisions of a satellite (parent body) with a third object. As a consequence, the collision fragments are injected into independent orbits that can cross the trajectory of the another satellite (target). These swarms of secondary impacts may be of some importance influencing the properties of the target body.
... n the formation of the atmosphere around some giant satellites may have been triggered by the gas released after the impacts of fragments onto the target's surface. Moreover, the different albedos and the different surface density of impact craters within the same satellite system may be connected to peculiar collisional phenomena, such as those we are dealing with. A quantitative modelling of the role of mass transfer processes obviously requires an estimate of how much material the parent bodies are able to supply, and under what circumstances the process may take place. A general analysis of the various pairs throughout the major satellite systems present in the Solar System has been performed in the present paper. Our analysis uses a statistical algorithm, computing, as a function of the initial properties of the fragments (masses and ejection velocities from their parent body), the mean intrinsic probability of impact, and then the mean lifetime of a fragment before impacting the target, as well as the distribution of the relative velocity. For an order-of-magnitude estimate of the available amount of mass, some simple analytical equations have been derived to evaluate the fraction of fragments from the parent body that can reach the target. These formulae allow a preliminary discrimination of the interesting cases. The pair Hyperion-Titan and the Uranus system have been analyzed in detail.