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Titan in front of Saturn and its rings. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SScI

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is drifting away from the ringed planet far faster than scientists initially thought.

Why it matters: The discovery could help researchers figure out exactly how old Saturn's system of rings and moons might be.

Details: The new research suggests that Titan likely formed much closer to Saturn than initially thought before migrating out to where it orbits today.

  • The moon is moving away from Saturn at a rate of about 4 inches per year, about 100 times faster than expected, according to a study in the journal Nature Astronomy.
  • A moon's gravity pulls ever so slightly on the planet it orbits, making the world temporarily bulge out.
  • "Over time, the energy created by the bulging and subsiding transfers from the planet to the moon, nudging it farther and farther out," NASA said in a statement.

Between the lines: The new finding pokes holes in some long-standing theories explaining how moons drift away from their planets.

  • Earlier hypotheses suggested moons like Titan, which orbit relatively far from their planets, drift away more slowly than inner moons, which are closer to their planet's gravity.
  • The new study is evidence that these outer moons can still move at a quick clip as they drift away from their planets.

The big picture: Titan isn't the only moon drifting from its home planet. The Moon is also slowly moving away from Earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches per year.

Go deeper: Saturn's rings may be more ancient than previously thought

Go deeper

Updated 21 mins ago - Economy & Business

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

Updated 21 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Pity the "green" car buyer

Expand chart
Data: IHS Markit Data; Note: Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Americans are more open than ever to trading in their gas cars for electrified vehicles — but they're flummoxed by the confusing array of green options arriving in showrooms.

Why it matters: Getting up to speed on the differences among hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles will be a challenge for car buyers — and salespeople, too — as we transition away from gas-powered vehicles over the next decade.

Updated 21 mins ago - Technology

America's attention recession

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New data shows that there's been a pullback from the historically high levels of media audience growth — and in some cases consumption — during 2020, pointing to signs of a slight "attention recession" in the past few months.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic drove a once-in-a-lifetime surge in the attention economy online, but the gradual return of normal life in many places — along with media overload and exhaustion — has down-shifted consumption patterns.

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