The satellite was supposed to move away from the planet at a rate of 0.1 cm per year, but according to new research, it is moving 110 times faster.
Titan is one of Saturn’s moons, and its orbit is expanding at a speed 110 times faster than expected, at about 11 centimeters a year. The discovery was made by a group of astronomers from different countries and was published on Monday (8) in the journal Nature Astronomy.
As the scientists explain, just as the Moon is slowly moving away from Earth (resulting in an expansion of its orbit), so is the natural satellite of Saturn – but scientists did not know that this process was so fast. According to astronomical models, Titan should move away from the planet at a rate of 0.1 cm per year, however, according to the new research, this index is 11 centimeters per year.
Scientists came to this conclusion after new observations indicated that Titan arrived at its current position in relation to Saturn (1.2 million kilometers) over 4.5 billion years.
The conclusion was the result of the use of a technique called astrometry, which produced accurate measurements of Titan’s position in relation to the background stars thanks to photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft. In addition, another method known as radiometry was used to measure Cassini’s velocity, which was affected by Titan’s gravitational influence.
“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,” explained Jim Fuller, assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology and co-author of the article, in a statement. “This implies that the Saturnian moon system, and potentially its rings, have formed and evolved more dynamically than previously believed.”