Fig2_5 Roche limit

Fig2_5 Roche limit

Fig. 2.5 . A large satellite (top) that moves well within a planetís Roche limit (dashed curve) will be torn apart by the tidal force of the planetís gravity, in an effect first investigated in 1847 by the French mathematician Edouard Roche (1820-1883). The side of the satellite closer to the planet feels a stronger gravitational pull than the side farther away, and this difference works against the self-gravitation that holds the body together. A small solid satellite (bottom) can resist tidal disruption because it has significant internal cohesion in addition to self-gravitation.

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University