Natural satellite

A natural satellite, moon, or secondary planet is a celestial body that orbits a planet or smaller body, which is called its primary. Formally classified natural satellites, or moons, include 176 planetary satellites orbiting six of the eight planets,[1] and eight orbiting three of the five IAU-listed dwarf planets.[2] As of January 2012, over 200 minor-planet moons have been discovered.[3] There are 76 objects in the asteroid belt with satellites (five with two satellites each), four Jupiter trojans, 39 near-Earth objects (two with two satellites each), and 14 Mars-crossers.[3] There are also 84 known natural satellites of trans-Neptunian objects.[3] Some 150 additional small bodies were observed within rings of Saturn, but they were not tracked long enough to establish orbits. Planets around other stars are likely to have natural satellites as well, although none have yet been observed. Of the inner planets, Mercury and Venus have no natural satellites; Earth has one large natural satellite, known as the Moon; and Mars has two tiny natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos. The large gas giants have extensive systems of natural satellites, including half a dozen comparable in size to Earth's Moon: the four Galilean moons, Saturn's Titan, and Neptune's Triton. Saturn has an additional six mid-sized natural satellites massive enough to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium, and Uranus has five. It has been suggested that some satellites may potentially harbour life, though there is currently no direct evidence of life. The EarthMoon system is unique in that the ratio of the mass of the Moon to the mass of the Earth is much greater than that of any other natural satelli e:planet ratio in the Solar System, and the Moon's orbit with respect to the Sun is always concave.[4] Among the dwarf planets, Ceres and Makemake have no natural satellites. Pluto has the relatively large natural satellite Charon and four smaller natural satellites.[5] Haumea has two natural satellites, and Eris has one. The PlutoCharon system is unusual in that the center of mass lies in open space between the two, a characteristic sometimes associated with a double-planet system.The natural satellites orbiting relatively close to the planet on prograde, uninclined circular orbits (regular satellites) are generally believed to have been formed out of the same collapsing region of the protoplanetary disk that created its primary. In contrast, irregular satellites (generally orbiting on distant, inclined, eccentric and/or retrograde orbits) are thought to be captured asteroids possibly further fragmented by collisions. Most of the major natural satellites of the Solar System have regular orbits, while most of the small natural satellites have irregular orbits.[6] The Earth's Moon[7] and possibly Charon[8] are exceptions among large bodies in that they are believed to have originated by the collision of two large proto-planetary objects (see the giant impact hypothesis). The material that would have been placed in orbit around the central body is predicted to have reaccreted to form one or more orbiting natural satellites. As opposed to planetary-sized bodies, asteroid moons are thought to commonly form by this process. Triton is another exception; although large and in a close, circular orbit, its motion is retrograde and it is thought to be a captured dwarf planet.