July 1, 2020 | Henry Richter

Titan Is Running Away from Saturn

Titan’s Fast Regress Has Age Implications


by Henry Richter, Ph.D., P.E.

A recent news release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announces that new examination of the data from the late Cassini spacecraft indicates that Saturn’s moon Titan is moving away from the planet at a higher rate than previously thought. What are the implications of the fact that the moon is moving away? A bit can be said about the time scale of the age of the Saturnian system.

A JPL news release on June 8 announced, “Saturn’s Moon Titan Drifting Away Faster Than Previously Thought.”

The new research by scientists at NASA and the Italian Space Agency has implications for the entire Saturn system as well as other planets and moons.

Just as our own Moon floats away from Earth a tiny bit more each year, other moons are doing the same with their host planets. As a moon orbits, its gravity pulls on the planet, causing a temporary bulge in the planet as it passes.

Over time, the energy created by the bulging and subsiding transfers from the planet to the moon, nudging it farther and farther out. Our Moon drifts 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) from Earth each year.

Scientists thought they knew the rate at which the giant moon Titan is moving away from Saturn, but they recently made a surprising discovery: Using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, they found Titan drifting a hundred times faster than previously understood – about 4 inches (11 centimeters) per year.

The article goes on to comment about the apparent age of the moon Titan (and the rest of the 80 moons). What can be determined (or at least inferred) by this movement?  The article states that this has caused questions about the age of the moons. The article states some basics:

The findings may help address an age-old question. While scientists know that Saturn formed 4.6 billion years ago in the early days of the solar system, there’s more uncertainty about when the planet’s rings and its system of more than 80 moons formed. Titan is currently 759,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn. The revised rate of its drift suggests that the moon started out much closer to Saturn, which would mean the whole system expanded more quickly than previously believed.

First, the statement is made that “scientists know that Saturn formed 4.6 billion years ago.” They know? Really? Based on what real information do they know? However, that is not the point of my thinking this through. The point is what does it suggest, knowing that Titan is moving away from Saturn at a certain rate? The JPL article makes some comments:

For the last 50 years, scientists have applied the same formulas to estimate how fast a moon drifts from its planet, a rate that can also be used to determine a moon’s age. Those formulas and the classical theories on which they’re based were applied to moons large and small all over the solar system. The theories assumed that in systems such as Saturn’s, with dozens of moons, the outer moons like Titan migrated outward more slowly than moons closer in because they are farther from their host planet’s gravity.

Four years ago, theoretical astrophysicist Jim Fuller, now of Caltech, published research that upended those theories. Fuller’s theory predicted that outer moons can migrate outward at a similar rate to inner moons because they become locked in a different kind of orbit pattern that links to the particular wobble of a planet and slings them outward.

So let’s look at this new measurement: Titan moves outward at four inches a year. It seems hardly a significant amount, considering that Titan is presently 759,000 miles away from its host planet. However, let’s look at these four inches on a cosmic time scale.

Four inches a year is 0.0063 miles a century. Which computes to 63 miles each million years. In 100 million years, assuming the drift rate stayed at the present rate, the movement would be 6,300 miles. In a billion years it would be 63,000 miles closer to Saturn.  And a billion years is a fraction of the claimed age of Saturn of 4.6 billion years. So where did it start out, and where did it come from?  Being recently created is a lot easier to fathom.

Titan would have been almost touching Saturn 4.5 billion years ago if it had been moving away at 4″ per year. (Shutterstock)

So, this calls into question again – claims about the age of the universe and all that is within it.  As a young earth believer, I see this as another example of how the “scientific” age of the universe falls apart. If Titan and Saturn were created at the same time as the earth, Titan would not have moved much since its creation. And the way they were created would result in the slow drift apart.

In conclusion, what scientific facts do we have? Only that Titan’s orbit appears to recede four inches a year at the present time. How do they measure that? How can they detect such a slight increase in an orbit four times greater than our moon, measured from almost a billion miles away? And how circular is the orbit? That’s for another article, but using just the four inches, and all sorts of surmises and assumptions, they come up with all sorts of impressive explanations. No one was there over the years to see how Titan moves away from Saturn. Science can be based on only what can be seen and measured. But a good bit of what we are told has to be deduced from imagination. So what can we really say?

Notice that their own calculations were off by a factor of a hundred—calculations based on a theory they had used for 50 years. The new calculation has a ripple effect on other measurements: “The revised rate of its drift suggests that the moon started out much closer to Saturn, which would mean the whole system expanded more quickly than previously believed,” the article says. Believed by whom? By old-agers. Moreover, this implies that the old theory, having being “upended” by Jim Fuller, was producing wrong results for the whole solar system. What other missing factors and unknowns could be affecting their conclusions now? We appreciate Dr Richter bringing these issues to our attention. —Ed.

Dr. Henry Richter was born in Long Beach, California, and served a short tour of duty in the U.S. Navy in World War II. From there he received a BS and PhD (Chemistry, Physics, and Electrical Engineering) from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena California. Then he went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which became part of NASA. While there he headed up the development of the free worlds first earth satellite, Explorer 1. He then oversaw the scientific instrumentation for the Ranger, Mariner, and Surveyor Programs. From JPL, he went to Electro-Optical Systems becoming a Vice President and Technical Director. Next was a staff position with UCLA as Development Manager of the Mountain Park Research Campus. He then owned an electronics manufacturing business and afterwards became the Communications Engineer for the L.A. County Sheriffs Department. Since 1977, he has been a communications consultant to Public Safety organizations. He is a life member of APCO, the IEEE, and the American Chemical Society. This year, he is the 2019 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Radio Club of America, which he will be awarded this month at their annual banquet in New York City. His book America’s Leap into Space details the origins of rocketry and his own role in the launching of the first American satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. Henry Richter is also author of Spacecraft Earth: A Guide for Passengers, with co-author David Coppedge (Creation Ministries International, 2016). Creation-Evolution Headlines is honored to have Dr Richter as a contribution writer. See his Author Profile for his previous contributions.

Dr Richter’s book examines many amazing finely-tuned “coincidences” that make our planet habitable

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