Oblique saturn and saturn rings. Image credit: Shutterstock/Johan Swanepoel
Both the sloping Saturn and Saturn rings may have originated from a torn moon. Using data from NASA’s Cassini space probe, the researchers ran simulations and found that a satellite between Titan and Titan was destroyed 200 million to 100 million years ago, thus explaining two long-standing mysteries. The paper was published in Science on September 15.
Saturn ‘s axis is tilted about 27 degrees relative to its orbital plane , and its inclination changes slowly over time. This phenomenon is called spiraling forward, like a spinning top on a table. Saturn spirals at almost exactly the same rate as Neptune, so astronomers believe the two can be coupled together, called resonance.
If this is the case, it is quite possible that the motion of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, combined with resonance, could pull Saturn to its side.
However, after studying Cassini’s data, Jack Wisdom and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that Saturn is just outside this resonance zone, which may indicate that it has recently been introduced into the resonant zone. They also found that, according to Titan’s current laws of motion, Saturn would now tilt about 36 degrees if it had been in the resonance zone before.
They say both discoveries could be explained by an additional moon that once orbited Saturn and was then destroyed or thrown out of the system and pushed Saturn out of the resonance zone while returning it to its upright state.
Cornell University Maryame El Moutamid, who was not involved in the work, said: “When an event like this happens, the whole system vibrates and reclines Saturn. ”
If this additional moon is destroyed, the debris it leaves behind could become Saturn’s rings. This led the researchers to name the caterpillar “butterfly pupa” in its form before it transformed into a butterfly.
“The butterfly is dormant during pupal, and then it lifts its veil and flaps its wings.” Wisdom said, “Again, it’s just a small satellite made of ice, and when it’s destroyed, the aura suddenly appears.” ”
If this event had occurred 200 million to 100 million years ago, it would explain Saturn’s current tilt, its resonance with Neptune, and the origin of Saturn’s rings. The researchers ran 390 simulations of Saturn’s system, including the “butterfly pupae,” 17 of which roughly coincided with what is now being seen.
But Moutamid says that explanation looks good, but it’s hard to prove. “It’s hard to verify an unlikely event, and there are two unlikely events that happen at the same time.”
She also admits: “The simulation shows a small possibility, but it cannot be ignored. Perhaps another spacecraft would need to be orbited very close to Saturn in order to make detailed observations to determine whether the ‘butterfly pupa’ actually existed. (Source: China Science Daily Wang Fang)
Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1126/Science.abn1234