The Apocalypse of Saturn | Summary and Q&A

November 17, 2021
John Michael Godier
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The Apocalypse of Saturn


Saturn's rings are disappearing and its moon, Titan, is slowly moving away, potentially causing Saturn to tilt on its axis. In the distant future, the outer planets could be thrown out of the solar system, leaving Saturn as a rogue planet. The hexagon on Saturn's north pole and the possibility of life on Titan add to the intrigue of this mysterious planet.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why are Saturn's rings disappearing?

The formation of Saturn's rings is still unknown, but their bright appearance suggests they are relatively young. Material in the rings constantly falls into Saturn, causing them to fade. Estimates suggest that the rings may only have less than a hundred million years left.

Q: How is Titan moving away from Saturn, and what will happen as a result?

Titan is moving away from Saturn at a rate of 11 centimeters per year. Its migration will eventually affect Saturn's spin and may cause it to tilt on its axis. Titan's fate could either be ejection from the Saturn system or destruction by falling into Saturn.

Q: What will happen to Saturn and its rings in the distant future?

In billions of years, as the sun becomes a white dwarf, the remaining planets in the outer solar system, including Saturn, will migrate outward. Eventually, due to perturbations from passing stars, all the planets will be thrown out of the solar system except Saturn, which might become a rogue planet.

Q: What is the mysterious hexagon on Saturn's north pole?

The hexagon is a cloud feature with a vortex at its center, possibly caused by high winds. It changes color and has a unique rotation period that coincides exactly with Saturn's radio emissions from its interior. Its origins and exact nature remain unclear.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Saturn's rings are a mystery as we don't know their age or how they formed, but they are currently disappearing due to material constantly falling into Saturn.

  • Titan, Saturn's moon, is gradually moving away from Saturn and could eventually cause Saturn to tilt on its axis or destroy Titan.

  • As the sun goes through its red giant phase, the outer planets, including Saturn, will migrate outward and eventually be thrown out of the solar system.

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