Late origin of the Saturn system

Erik Asphaug, Andreas Reufer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Saturn is orbited by a half dozen ice rich middle-sized moons (MSMs) of diverse geology and composition. These comprise ∼4.4% of Saturn's satellite mass; the rest is Titan, more massive per planet than Jupiter's satellites combined. Jupiter has no MSMs. Disk-based models to explain these differences exist, but have various challenges and assumptions. We introduce the hypothesis that Saturn originally had a 'galilean' system of moons comparable to Jupiter's, that collided and merged, ultimately forming Titan. Mergers liberate ice-rich spiral arms in our simulations, that self-gravitate into escaping clumps resembling Saturn's MSMs in size and compositional diversity. We reason that MSMs were spawned in a few such collisional mergers around Saturn, while Jupiter's original satellites stayed locked in resonance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-565
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Enceladus
  • Moon
  • Moons
  • Saturn, satellites
  • Titan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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