Cressida and Desdemona Don’t Get Along

You may recall that the moons of Uranus are named (for the most part) after Shakespeare characters.  Looks like 27 of them at last count with 3 (by my count) not being from Shakespeare.  Ariel doesn’t technically count because Ariel and Umbriel were intended to be a reference to Alexander Pope’s The Rape of Lock (the idea being that those two, along with Titania and Oberon, were the fairies attending Uranus, the god of the sky).

Well, apparently there might be fewer of them very soon.  Popular Mechanics reports that Desdemona and Cressida are going to crash into each other in about a million years.  That’s totally “soon” on an astronomical level 😉

I guess it has to do with the irregular orbits, particular Cressida’s.  It’s bringing her closer to Desdemona, and the great thing about space is that without anything to get in the way, it’s easy to plot the math and physics out over a few million years and predict with pretty good accuracy what’s going to happen.

Something I discovered in writing this up, though, is that nothing is ever new under the sun (ha!) in the astronomical community.  This new article cites a new paper uploaded to arVix.  But the Wikipedia page also references the “Cressida and Desdemona will crash into each other” note. “Wow,” I thought, “Those Wikipedia editors are really up on their links.”  Not really – they’re referencing a 1997 paper.

Given that Cressida and Desdemona were discovered in 1986 (along with 8 others) as part of the Voyager 2 flyby, I can totally imagine the scientists looking at the Voyager 2 data and saying, “Oh cool, Uranus has like 10 more moons than we thought it did.” <pause>  “Those two are totally going to crash into each other eventually.”

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