The new findings also confirm a new theory explaining and predicting the effect of a planet on the orbit of its moons.
Saturn’s moon: Saturn’s Moon Titan is drifting away from the planet faster than scientists believed! The moons of all planets are drifting away from their hosts, moving a little bit each year. However, according to a statement by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists thought they knew the rate at which the Moon Titan was drifting away, but it is moving much faster.
How does the moon drift away?
While orbiting, the gravity of the moon pulls on the host planet, causing a temporary bulge to occur in the planet as it passes, the statement said. The energy created by this bulging and subsiding eventually transfers from the host planet to the moon, causing it to drift farther and farther away. Earth’s Moon drifts 3.8 centimeters or 1.5 inches away from the planet every year, the statement added.
Moon Titan and Saturn: How fast is it drifting?
Recent data received from the Cassini spacecraft of NASA revealed that the Moon Titan is drifting 100 times faster than what the scientists had originally thought, moving 4 inches or 11 centimeters every year. This discovery is significant. It is known that Saturn was formed during the early formation of the solar system nearly 4.6 billion years ago. However, there is uncertainty about when the system of the planet’s rings and over 80 moons started. At present, Moon Titan is 1.2 million kilometers away from Saturn. With the revised rate of the movement of Moon Titan, it seems that the moon started out closer to Saturn than earlier thought, meaning that the entire system of Saturn expanded much faster than believed.
The statement quoted the lead author of the work Valery Lainey as saying that these results bring an important puzzle piece about the long-standing debated question about the age of the system of Saturn and the formation of its moons.
As per the statement, the new findings also confirm a new theory explaining and predicting the effect of a planet on the orbit of its moons. Over the last 50 years, the same formulas have been used to determine how quickly a moon is drifting away from its host planet, and this rate also helps in determining the age of the moon. These were applied to all the moons in the solar system. Scientists also believed that in Saturn’s system and others like it which have multiple moons, the moons further away from the host planet drifted away at a slower pace than the ones closer to it, because they are farther from the gravity of the planet.
However, a few years ago, the statement said, Jim Fuller, a theoretical physicist now in Caltech, published a research which upended these theories. He said that outer moons drift away at a rate similar to that of inner ones because they get locked in a kind of orbital pattern linking to the particular wobble of a planet, which slings them outward.
Fuller, who is also a co-author of the new paper, was quoted as saying that the new measurements suggest that the planet-moon interactions of this kind could be more prominent than earlier believed and they could also apply to many systems, like other planetary moon systems, exoplanets, and even systems where stars orbit each other.