Scientists of NASA revealed that Titan the largest moon of Saturn is moving away from the planet 100 times faster than previously believed.
Every moon – like ours which moves 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) away from earth each year-moves a bit from its planet. As a moon orbits, its gravity pulls on the planet, causing a temporary bulge in the planet as it passes.
scientists thought that they knew the speed with which the titan is drifting away from the ringed planet.
But after the recent data collected by NASA’ s Cassini spacecraft, scientists discovered that Titan is moving away from the planet a hundred times faster than they thought, which is about 4 inches (11 centimeters) per year.
Cassini mission is a joint venture of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), and the Italian space agency (ASI).
It is a robotic spacecraft, which was sent to study the mysterious Saturn, its complex rings, and the moon in detail.
The spacecraft carried a probe called Huygens which was parachuted on the surface of Titan in January 2005.
Since then Cassini has discovered a lot about the mysteries of the gas giant and its moon.
The second-largest planet in the solar system Saturn is the most complex and mysterious. This finding of the moon of the planet will help the scientists to know more about it.
While scientists know that Saturn formed 4.6 billion years ago in the early days of the solar system, but they are uncertain when the planet’s complex rings and its system of the moons formed.
Saturn has more than 80 moons.
Titan, One of the moons of Saturn is as interesting as its planet. With 150 known moons of our solar system, It is the only one with a substantial atmosphere.It is larger than the planet mercury.
The second-largest moon, after Ganymede in our solar system, Titan is the only place besides Earth known to have liquids in the form of rivers, lakes, and seas on its surface.
It is currently 759,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn.
The revised rate of its drift suggests that the moon started much closer to Saturn, which would mean the whole system expanded more quickly than previously believed.
“This result brings an important new piece of the puzzle for the highly debated question of the age of the Saturn system and how its moons formed,” said Valery Lainey, lead author of the work published June 8 in Nature Astronomy.
He researched as a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California before joining the Paris Observatory at PSL University.
This discovery of Titan’s rate of drift explains and predicts how planets affect their moon’s orbit.
For the past 50 years, scientists have applied the formula which was based on classical theories for every moon whether it is a small or a large one.
These theories assumed that the moons, which orbit farther from their host planet’s gravity like Titan migrated outward more slowly than the one which orbits in the close vicinity of their host planet.
“The new measurements imply that these kinds of planet-moon interactions can be more prominent than prior expectations and that they can apply to many systems, such as other planetary moon systems, exoplanets — those outside our solar system — and even binary star systems, where stars orbit each other,” said Fuller, a coauthor of the new paper.
To reach their results, the authors mapped stars in the background of Cassini images and tracked Titan’s position.
To confirm their findings, they compared them with an independent dataset: radio science data collected by Cassini. During ten close flybys between 2006 and 2016, the spacecraft sent radio waves to Earth.
Scientists studied how the signal’s frequency was changed by their interactions with their surroundings to estimate how Titan’s orbit evolved.
“By using two completely different datasets, we obtained results that are in full agreement, and also in agreement with Jim Fuller’s theory, which predicted a much faster migration of Titan,” said coauthor Paolo Tortora, of the Italy’s University of Bologna.
Tortora is a member of the Cassini Radio Science team and worked on the research with the support of the Italian Space Agency.