Caliban (moon)

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Caliban discovery Palomar.gif
Discovery image of Caliban taken by the Hale Telescope in September 1997
Discovered by
Discovery siteHale Telescope at Palomar Obs.
Discovery date6 September 1997
Uranus XVI
Named after
S/1997 U 2
AdjectivesCalibanian /kælɪˈbniən/[4]
Orbital characteristics[6]
Epoch 27 June 2015 (JD 2457200.5)
Observation arc17.96 yr (6,559 d)
7,163,810 km (0.0478871 AU)
1.59 yr (579.26 d)
0° 37m 17.345s / day
Inclination139.90814° (to the ecliptic)
140.878° (to local Laplace plane)[5]
Satellite ofUranus
Physical characteristics
Mean diameter
Mass~2.5×1017 kg (estimate)[8]
Mean density
~1.3 g/cm3 (assumed)[8]
9.948±0.019 hr (double-peaked)[7]
2.66±0.04 hr (single-peaked)[9]
Temperature~65 K (mean estimate)
22.0 (V)[7]

Caliban /ˈkælɪbæn/ is the second-largest retrograde irregular satellite of Uranus.[10] It was discovered on 6 September 1997 by Brett J. Gladman, Philip D. Nicholson, Joseph A. Burns, and John J. Kavelaars using the 200-inch Hale telescope together with Sycorax and given the temporary designation S/1997 U 1.[1]

Designated Uranus XVI, it was named after the monster character in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.


Animation of Caliban's orbit around Uranus.
   Uranus  ·    Sycorax ·    Francisco  ·    Caliban  ·    Stephano  ·    Trinculo

Caliban follows a distant orbit, more than 10 times further from Uranus than the furthest regular moon Oberon.[1] Its orbit is retrograde, moderately inclined and slightly eccentric. The orbital parameters suggest that it may belong to the same dynamic cluster as Stephano and Francisco, suggesting common origin.[11]

Retrograde irregular satellites of Uranus

The diagram illustrates the orbital parameters of the retrograde irregular satellites of Uranus (in polar co-ordinates) with the eccentricity of the orbits represented by the segments extending from the pericentre to the apocentre.

Physical characteristics[edit]

Caliban's diameter is estimated to be around 42 km, based on thermal measurements by the Herschel Space Observatory.[7] Its albedo is estimated at around 0.22, which is unusually high compared to those of other Uranian irregular satellites. Neptune's largest irregular satellite, Nereid, has a similarly high albedo as Caliban.[7]

Somewhat inconsistent reports put Caliban in light-red category (B–V = 0.83 V–R = 0.52,[12] B–V = 0.84 ± 0.03 V–R = 0.57 ± 0.03[11]), redder than Himalia but still less red than most Kuiper belt objects. Caliban may be slightly redder than Sycorax.[9] It also absorbs light at 0.7 μm, and one group of astronomers think this may be a result of liquid water that modified the surface.[13]

Measurements of Caliban's light curve by the Kepler space telescope indicate that its rotation period is about 9.9 hours.[7]


Caliban is hypothesized to be a captured object: it did not form in the accretionary disk that existed around Uranus just after its formation. The exact capture mechanism is not known, but capturing a moon requires the dissipation of energy. The possible capture processes include: gas drag in the protoplanetary disk, many body interactions and the capture during the fast growth of the Uranus' mass (so-called "pull-down").[10][11]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Gladman Nicholson et al. 1998.
  2. ^ "Caliban". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Benjamin Smith (1903) The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
  4. ^ Apple, Au, & Gandin (2009) The Routledge international handbook of critical education
  5. ^ Brozovic, M.; Jacobson, R. A. (2009). "Planetary Satellite Mean Orbital Parameters". The Orbits of the Outer Uranian Satellites, Astronomical Journal, 137, 3834. JPL/NASA. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
  6. ^ a b "M.P.C. 95215" (PDF). Minor Planet Circular. Minor Planet Center. 29 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Farkas-Takács, A.; Kiss, Cs.; Pál, A.; Molnár, L.; Szabó, Gy. M.; Hanyecz, O.; et al. (September 2017). "Properties of the Irregular Satellite System around Uranus Inferred from K2, Herschel, and Spitzer Observations". The Astronomical Journal. 154 (3): 13. arXiv:1706.06837. Bibcode:2017AJ....154..119F. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/aa8365. S2CID 118869078. 119.
  8. ^ a b "Planetary Satellite Physical Parameters". JPL (Solar System Dynamics). 20 December 2008. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  9. ^ a b Maris, Michele; Carraro, Giovanni; Cremonese, Gabrielle; Fulle, Marco (May 2001). "Multicolor Photometry of the Uranus Irregular Satellites Sycorax and Caliban". The Astronomical Journal. 121 (5): 2800–2803. arXiv:astro-ph/0101493. Bibcode:2001AJ....121.2800M. doi:10.1086/320378. S2CID 16273706.
  10. ^ a b Sheppard, Jewitt & Kleyna 2005.
  11. ^ a b c Grav, Holman & Fraser 2004.
  12. ^ Rettig, Walsh & Consolmagno 2001.
  13. ^ Schmude, Richard (2008). Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and How to Observe Them. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-76601-0.

External links[edit]