The planet Saturn tilted after one of its moons rapidly moved away

Scientists have published a study relating in particular to the inclination of the planet Saturn and the appearance of its rings.

The planet Saturn tilted after one of its 83 moons moved away very quickly, several researchers indicate in a study published in the prestigious journal Science.

Saturn’s axis of rotation is currently tilted at 26.7° from the vertical. A fact that has remained unexplained for a long time when Saturn is a gas giant.

“Its process of material accumulation should have led the planet to remain perpendicular to the plane of its orbit,” the researchers say.

Rotation up to 36°

Except that Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn, is moving away from it little by little and rather quickly. According to these researchers, this movement has gradually changed the frequency at which the axis of rotation of Saturn makes a complete revolution around the vertical.

Saturn tilted up to 36° and then its rotational frequency entered into synchronization with the neighboring planet, Neptune, about a billion years ago. This phenomenon would explain the inclination which has persisted since, even if it has slightly decreased due to the influence of Titan which has been reduced over its distance.

Another important change: the rotation frequency is now no longer synchronized between Saturn and Neptune. There too, one of the moons of Saturn would be in question since it would have crashed on its surface.

“She broke down into multiple pieces, and these pieces are themselves still dislocated, and little by little form the rings”, explains Jack Wisdom in his study in the journal Science.

Appearance of rings

This is also one of the important lessons of this publication since scientists had, until now, no explanation of the “youth” of the rings in relation to the planet.

Saturn was formed four and a half billion years ago, at the beginning of the solar system. But a few decades ago, scientists suggested that Saturn’s rings appeared much later: only about 100 million years ago.

The missing Moon was baptized Chrysalis (chrysalis in French) by Jack Wisdom. Scientists believe that this moon was a bit smaller than the one near Earth.

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