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But that fact allows us to use computer simulations to tease out the history of Saturn’s inner moons, doing so, we find that they were most likely born during the most recent 2 percent of the planet’s history. Related : Saturn's largest moon Titan is bursting with color Researchers had long thought Saturn’s rings were as old as the planet itself. But that thinking changed in 2012, when French astronomers found that tidal effects – the gravitational interaction of the inner moons with fluids deep in Saturn’s interior – are causing them to spiral to larger orbital radii comparatively quickly. The implication, given their present positions, is that these moons, and presumably the rings, are not so old. That still did n’t answer exactly when they were born. Cuk and his team turned to results from NASA’s Cassini mission, which has observed ice geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Assuming that the energy powering these geysers comes directly from tidal interactions and that Enceladus ’ level of geothermal activity is more or less constant, then the tides within Saturn are quite strong. According to the team’s analysis, these would move the satellite by the small amount indicated by the simulations in only about 100 million years. Related : Cassini probe takes' cosmic bulls-eye' of Saturn moons Enceladus, Tethys This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period, the era of the dinosaurs.
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