Why the Saturn is tilted? The blame is on its moon!
We learned about the solar system in school – about the sun and the planets that revolve around it. We learned about a giant gaseous planet that has a collection of rings around it. Moreover, this planet Saturn is tilted from its axis compared to the rest of the planets. This gas giant is called Saturn. Saturn is the second-largest planet, after Jupiter, in our solar system.
Like our Earth, Saturn has its own moons and there are 82 of them. The largest moon of Saturn is called Titan and in terms of volume, it is even larger than Mars. In a new discovery published in the Nature Astronomy journal in January, scientists put their finger on Titan for being the reason for Saturn’s tilt.
Why the Saturn is tilted though?
For over three billion years after it has formed, Saturn’s axis was slightly tilted compared to other planets. Around one billion years ago, the orbits of Saturn’s few moons went through some rearrangement. This rearrangement caused a resonance that tilted Saturn’s axis in the process. Saturn’s axis further came in the path of the orbit of Neptune and the produced resonance further tilted it. Astronomers have found this tilt to be around 27 degrees!
Scientists after analyzing data from the Paris Observatory (PSL/CNRS) at the Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Calculation have come up with more interesting findings. According to their calculation, Titan and the other moons of Saturn are gradually going away from Saturn. Due to its large volume and mass, Titan is affecting the orientation of the axis of Saturn the most in the process. As these moons are moving away from Saturn, the pull caused by this is making the Saturn more and more tilted.
How much Saturn is going to be tilted in the future?
The tilted axis of Saturn, due to the rearrangement of Neptune’s axis a few billion years ago, was more or less stable since then. But the team of scientists from CNRS, Sorbonne University, and the University of Pisa revealed that it is not anymore. According to the researchers, Saturn is getting tilted day by day and we are actually seeing merely the transitional phase of the shift. According to them, in the few billion years to come Saturn will get doubly tilted.
Not only Saturn, but scientists have also predicted that Jupiter is also going to be tilted due to its four moons. The rearrangement of the orbits of the moons of Jupiter and the produced resonance due to the crossing of Jupiter’s orbit with Uranus will make Jupiter tilted. According to the astronomers, in the next 5 billion years Jupiter will undergo tilting from 3 to 30 degrees.