Titan is Departing from Saturn 100 Times Faster than Astronomers Previously Thought

We’re lucky enough to have the Moon orbiting our planet uninterrupted. Our natural satellite has tremendously important effects on Earth and the life dwelling upon it. The Moon causes tides and makes Earth a more livable planet by moderating its wobble on the axis.

But other planets from our Solar System have much more moons than Earth. Saturn has 82 moons, which makes the gaseous giant the champion of the Solar System. Titan is probably the most interesting from those numerous moons, as it shows signs that it can harbor life. Titan is the only moon known to possess a dense atmosphere. It’s also the only known body in space, except for Earth, where clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found. But yet another interesting fact has been discovered recently about Titan.

1.2 million kilometers

This is the current distance that separates Titan from its host planet. After many years of observations and exploration, scientists concluded that Titan’s orbit around Saturn is continually expanding. And the moon is departing from its host planet 100 times faster than scientists initially thought.

Caltech’s Jim Fuller, who is co-author on the new paper and assistant professor of theoretical astrophysics, said:

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.

Two teams of researchers each used a different technique for measuring Titan’s orbit. One technique is the astrometry, which takes measurements of the position of the moon relative to background stars within images taken by the Cassini spacecraft. The other technique is radiometry, and it measures Cassini’s velocity as it is affected by the gravitational influence of Titan.

The study is described in a paper from the journal Nature Astronomy on June 8.

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