Saturn has 62 known moons. A new study published in The Astrophysical Journal has found that some of Saturn’s icy moons may have been formed much later compared to earlier estimates. Saturn’s rings and moons may not be older than 100 million years.
The researchers have based their findings on the assessment of new computer modeling of the Saturn system. The Saturn moons called Tethys, Dione and Rhea have not shown the kind of changes in their orbital tilts that are common for moons that have been present in the system and interacted with other moons over long periods of time. They seem to be quite young moons.
Study’s lead researcher Matija Cuk from the SETI Institute said that change in orbits of moons is an inevitable thing. “But that fact allows us to use computer simulations to tease out the history of Saturn’s inner moons. Doing so, we find that they were most likely born during the most recent 2 percent of the planet’s history”, affirmed Cuk.
Since Saturn’s rings have been discovered in the 1600s, their age has been hugely debated by astronomers. In 2012, French astronomers said that the moons of Saturn are drifting outward as they orbit around a giant planet. The motion is directed by tidal forces between the planet and its attendant satellites creating heat within the gas giant.
It has been suggested that tidal forces should cause the moons to move to larger orbits. Saturn is having many moons and they are slowly increasing their orbital size owing to tidal effects. The researchers also mentioned that Enceladus would have moved from its original orbital position to its current one in just 100 million years, meaning that it has formed during the Cretaceous period. It could be finally said that the inner moons of Saturn and its rings are relatively young.