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 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:15 a.m. ET: 30,539,903 — Total deaths: 952,629— Total recoveries: 20,800,482Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:15 a.m. ET: 6,726,353 — Total deaths: 198,603 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As the coronavirus pandemic drags into its seventh month, it remains an open debate whether the U.S. should aim for the elimination of COVID-19 — and whether we even can at this point.

Why it matters: This is the question underlying all of the political and medical battles over COVID-19. As both the direct effects of the pandemic and the indirect burden of the response continue to add up, we risk ending up with the worst of both worlds if we fail to commit to a course.

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.