As per a new study, Titan is surprisingly drifting away from Saturn, a hundred times faster than what we originally thought.
Titan Drifting Away From Saturn Faster Than We Thought
Long ago, Saturn’s largest moon called Titan is born fairly close to its mother planet. However, a new study shows that over the course of 4.5 billion years, the moon has actually slowly but steadily migrated out. Now, the same research reveals it is now orbiting some 746,000 miles away from the planet and continuing to expand away further at a pace that is a hundred times faster than what we originally thought of.
“Most prior work had predicted that moons like Titan or Jupiter’s moon Callisto were formed at an orbital distance similar to where we see them now. This implies that the Saturnian moon system, and potentially its rings, have formed and evolved more dynamically than previously believed,” Jim Fuller, co-author of the new study and an assistant professor of theoretical astrophysics at Caltech, said.
Usually, the moons of a planet exert a small gravitational pull that tug at it while they follow their orbits. This gravitational interaction is actually the reason behind the rising and falling of our tides here on our planet. However, this also gradually pushes our Moon away from Earth, at a distance of about 1.5 inches every year.
Per the study, the same thing happens between Titan and Saturn. However, study stated that the friction inside Saturn is weaker than ours, which makes Titan move away from its planet at around 4.3 inches every year.
To make this study, two teams utilized two techniques. One used astrometry, which sees astronomers measure the position and movements of stars to measure Titan’s position. The other team used radiometry, which uses electromagnetic radiation to calculate the spacecraft Cassini’s velocity as it zoomed by Titan.
“By using two completely independent data sets — astrometric and radiometric — and two different methods of analysis, we obtained results that are in full agreement,” Valéry Lainey, the study lead author, said. Previously, Lainey worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and now works at the Paris Observatory in France.