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New Theory Suggests a Moon Died So Saturn Could Have its Rings and its Tilt

Saturn is visible to the naked eye from Earth, but it was just another bright object in the sky until 1610 when Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope at it and saw … well, he saw something that he couldn’t identify. He initially thought it was two other objects that were so close to Saturn, he wondered if they might be touching. He later referred to them as Saturn’s “ears” – did he think he was looking at an early version of Mickey Mouse? For inspiration, he thought about how the planet got its name — Saturn is the Roman god of wealth and agriculture and the father of Jupiter. Actually, he had other children but it was often said that he ate them … gorging “insatiably,” which is one of the origins of its name. the Roman scholar and philosopher Cicero wrote of this, and he and Galileo may have been on to something. A new study by astronomers at MIT found that the best explanation for Saturn’s rings and its severe tilt in relation to its orbital plane is that the planet once had another very large moon that orbited too close to the planet – so close that it brushed against it, causing the moon to explode and become a sizeable porting of the famous rings. Not only that, the loss of its gravitational pull on Saturn gave the planet its significant tilt. Another case of Saturn swallowing a child?

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