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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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
35 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Exxon says it's well-positioned amid investor pressure

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

ExxonMobil said Wednesday that its oil-and-gas development plans will create good returns even at modest oil prices as the company looks to win back investor confidence after several rocky years.

Driving the news: The company, just ahead of an investor presentation this morning, said its investments are designed to generate returns of over 30% and touted its spending reductions.

51 mins ago - Technology

Google says goodbye to individual user tracking

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Google made clear Wednesday that after it finished phasing out third-party cookies over the next year or so, it won't introduce other forms of identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web.

Why it matters: The move comes amid increased scrutiny over the way tech giants use consumer data to reinforce their dominance, particularly around personalized advertising.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The Fed could be firing up economic stimulus in disguise

Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard at a "Fed Listens" event. Photo: Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images.

Even as global growth expectations increase and governments pile on fiscal spending measures central bankers are quietly restarting recession-era bond-buying programs.

Driving the news: Comments Tuesday from Fed governor Lael Brainard suggest the Fed may be jumping onboard the global monetary policy rethink and restarting a program used following the 2008 global financial crisis.

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