From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Saturn's tilt
Mains level : NA
The tilt of the rotation axis of the gas giant Saturn may in fact be caused by its moons, space scientists have reported in the journal Nature Astronomy.
- Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter.
- It is a gas giant with an average radius of about nine times that of Earth.
- It only has one-eighth the average density of Earth; however, with its larger volume, Saturn is over 95 times more massive.
Reasons for Saturn’s tilt
- Saturn’s axis interacted with the path of the planet Neptune and gradually tilted until it reached the inclination of 27 degrees observed today.
- This current tilt of Saturn’s rotation axis is caused by the migration of its satellites, and especially by that of its largest moon, Titan.
- Recent observations have shown that Titan and the other moons are gradually moving away from Saturn much faster than astronomers had previously estimated.
- By incorporating this increased migration rate into their calculations, the researchers concluded that this process affects the inclination of Saturn’s rotation axis.
Try this PYQ:
Q.Which phenomenon has Venusian winds rotating 60 times faster than the planet below on the dark side?
(a) Super rotation
(c) Dual rotation
- As its satellites move further away, the planet tilts more and more.
- In fact, Saturn’s axis is still tilting, and what we see today is merely a transitional stage in this shift.
- Over the next few billion years, the inclination of Saturn’s axis could more than double.
Why it matters?
- The decisive event that tilted Saturn is thought to have occurred relatively recently.
- For over three billion years after its formation, Saturn’s rotation axis remained only slightly tilted.
- It was only roughly a billion years ago that the gradual motion of its satellites triggered a resonance phenomenon that continues today.