Saturn's 62 odd moons are not as old as they were thought to be.
This was claimed in a new study that analyzed the data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft on moons.
Blasting many myths about Saturn, the data were used in proving that the Saturn moons were not as old as 4.5 billion years.
The findings of the study by researchers from Cornell University and Europe scientific team, Encelade, were published in the latest edition of the journal Icarus.
In the study, the premise was that the present distance of the moons from Saturn is too short, implying that they are younger than previously thought of. It also endorses the theory that the moons took birth from the famed rings of Saturn.
The study also showed that the moons are moving away from Saturn under gravitational and other forces.
According to co-author Radwan Tajeddine, an astronomy research associate at Cornell and a member of Encelade, monitoring the tidal disturbances helped in obtaining Saturn's Love number and demarcated it from the planet's dissipation factor.
"Those two parameters - the Love number and dissipation factor - are difficult to separate," Tajeddine said.
Using Saturnian moons' migration as a variable, they debunked the previous estimate of the moons' age by showing that if it was so, by now, they would have been much farther away — but that was not the case.
Tiny Vs Large Saturn Moons
It may be understood that beneath the big cover of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, Saturn conceals a rocky core that is 18 times bigger than the Earth.
That core comes under the attractive tidal forces from Saturn's major moons and the bulges also exert a force that pushes the moons away.
To illustrate this, they studied the orbits of four tiny moons associated with the larger moons such as Tethys and Dione.
It was observed that tiny moons were not exerting tidal forces on Saturn but their orbits were being disturbed by Saturn's core tidal bulges.
Migration Of Saturn Moons
To illustrate the age factor, the study showed the Saturn moons were indeed moving away from the planet faster than previously estimated.
They are moving away from the planet because of the gravitational push from tidal bulges. That was similar to the process with Earth's moon as well, which is also moving away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year.
To quantify the push factor from Saturn's core, researchers used old photographic images of Saturn and latest observations by the Cassini spacecraft to calculate Saturn's Love number.
The number is an index of the planet's rigidity and explains why four tiny moons of Saturns with names Helene, Telesto, Calypso, and Polydeuces were orbitally disturbed and hastening the migration of moons.
The Cassini space probe, orbiting Saturn since 2004 has marked a paradigm shift by stimulating new research like this by debunking many old concepts about Saturn.
The NASA spacecraft is in the midst of ring-grazing orbits as the first phase of the mission's endgame before it makes a plunge into the planet's atmosphere on Sept. 15 marking the formal end.