Saturn’s moons are younger than previously thought: new study suggests

Saturn’s moons are younger than previously thought: new study suggests

Saturn's moons are younger than previously thought and they are migrating away much faster than expected, freshly harvested data from the National Aeronautics & Space Administration's Cassini mission suggested.
Using images taken from century-old glass negatives and fresh data provided by the Cassini spacecraft, a team of astronomers measured the so-called Love number that describes the rigidity of the tidal bulge and the dissipation factor that controls the speed at which the gaseous moons are moving away. The concept of Love number was named after famed British mathematician Augustus E.H. Love, who studied elasticity.

The rocky core of Saturn responds to tidal forces from all of the planet's moons by bulging. In turn, the force of the bulging core pushes the moons slightly away.

The researchers concluded that if the moons actually formed 4.5 billion years ago, as had previously been thought, their current distances from the planet should be greater. This suggested that the moons are much younger than previously thought.

Radwan Tajeddine, a member of the European-based Encelade scientific team that pored over the Cassini data, said, "All of these Cassini mission measurements are changing our view of the Saturnian system, as it turns our old theories upside down. It takes one good spacecraft to tell us how wrong we were in the past."

New findings about the gaseous planet's moons were detailed in a recent edition of the astronomy journal Icarus.


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