A shepherd moon (also herder moon, watcher moon) is a small natural satellite that clears a gap in planetary-ring material or keeps particles within a ring contained. The name is a result of the fact they limit the "herd" of the ring particles as a shepherd.
Due to their gravitational effect, they pick up particles and deflect them from their original orbits through orbital resonance. This causes gaps in the ring system, such as the particularly striking Cassini Division, as well as other characteristic bands, or strange "twisted" deformation of rings.
Several of Jupiter's small innermost moons, namely Metis and Adrastea, are within Jupiter's ring system and are also within Jupiter's Roche limit. It is possible that these rings are composed of material that is being pulled off these two bodies by Jupiter's tidal forces, possibly facilitated by impacts of ring material on their surfaces.
Uranus also has shepherd moons on its ε ring, Cordelia and Ophelia. They are interior and exterior shepherds, respectively. Both moons are well within Uranus's synchronous orbit radius, and their orbits are therefore slowly decaying due to tidal deceleration.
Neptune's rings are very unusual in that they first appeared to be composed of incomplete arcs in Earth-based observations, but Voyager 2's images showed them to be complete rings with bright clumps. It is thought that the gravitational influence of the shepherd moon Galatea and possibly other as-yet undiscovered shepherd moons are responsible for this clumpiness.
Rings around some centaurs have been identified. Chariklo's rings are remarkably well-defined and are suspected to either be very young or kept in place by a shepherd moon similar in mass to the rings. Chiron is also thought to have rings similar in form to those of Chariklo.
- Faure, Gunter; Mensing, Teresa (2007). Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-5233-0.
- "On the masses and motions of mini-moons: Pandora's not a". www.planetary.org. Retrieved 2016-06-14.
- "NASA - Cassini Finds New Saturn Moon That Makes Waves". www.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-14.
- Showalter, Mark R. (1991-06-27). "Visual detection of 1981S13, Saturn's eighteenth satellite, and its role in the Encke gap". Nature. 351 (6329): 709–713. doi:10.1038/351709a0.
- Moutamid, Maryame El; Nicholson, Philip D.; French, Richard G.; Tiscareno, Matthew S.; Murray, Carl D.; Evans, Michael W.; French, Colleen McGhee; Hedman, Matthew M.; Burns, Joseph A. (2015-10-01). "How Janus' Orbital Swap Affects the Edge of Saturn's A Ring?". arXiv:.
- Esposito, Larry W. (2002-01-01). "Planetary rings". Reports on Progress in Physics. 65 (12): 1741. doi:10.1088/0034-4885/65/12/201. ISSN 0034-4885.
- Karkoschka, Erich (2001-05-01). "Voyager's Eleventh Discovery of a Satellite of Uranus and Photometry and the First Size Measurements of Nine Satellites". Icarus. 151 (1): 69–77. doi:10.1006/icar.2001.6597.
- Miner, Ellis D.; Wessen, Randii R.; Cuzzi, Jeffrey N. (2007). "Present knowledge of the Neptune ring system". Planetary Ring System. Springer Praxis Books. ISBN 978-0-387-34177-4.
- Salo, Heikki; Hanninen, Jyrki (1998). "Neptune's Partial Rings: Action of Galatea on Self-Gravitating Arc Particles". Science. 282 (5391): 1102–1104. Bibcode:1998Sci...282.1102S. doi:10.1126/science.282.5391.1102. PMID 9804544.
- Braga-Ribas, F.; Sicardy, B.; Ortiz, J. L.; Snodgrass, C.; Roques, F.; Vieira-Martins, R.; Camargo, J. I. B.; Assafin, M.; Duffard, R. "A ring system detected around the Centaur (10199) Chariklo". Nature. 508 (7494): 72–75. doi:10.1038/nature13155.
- Ortiz, J. L.; Duffard, R.; Pinilla-Alonso, N.; Alvarez-Candal, A.; Santos-Sanz, P.; Morales, N.; Fernández-Valenzuela, E.; Licandro, J.; Bagatin, A. Campo. "Possible ring material around centaur (2060) Chiron". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 576: A18. arXiv:. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201424461. ISSN 0004-6361.
- Arnold Hanslmeier: Einführung in Astronomie und Astrophysik. Spektrum, Berlin/Heidelberg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8274-1846-3.