Saturn’s tilt caused by its moons

Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

Denny Mathew, Staff Writer

Ever wondered why Saturn is the only tilted planet in our solar system? New research shows that this tilting is caused by Saturn’s moons, especially its largest moon, Titan.

The university’s studies have shown that Titan and the other moons are gradually moving away from Saturn much faster than astronomers had previously estimated. After including these increased migration rates into their calculations, the researchers concluded that this process affects the inclination of Saturn’s rotation axis: as its satellites move further away, the planet tilts more and more.

Over three billion years after its formation, Saturn’s rotation axis was seen to be only slightly tilted. It was only roughly a billion years ago when the gradual motion of its satellites initiated a resonance phenomenon that continues today: Saturn’s axis interacted with the path of the planet Neptune and gradually tilted until it reached the inclination of twenty-seven degrees, seen today.

Saturn’s axis is still tilting as we speak. What we see today is Saturn in its transitional stage in this shift. Over the next few billion years, the inclination of Saturn’s axis could more than double.

These conclusions were carried out by scientists from the CNRS, Sorbonne University, and the University of Pisa.