Saturn is the solar system's 'moon king,' with 20 more spotted


Jupiter, the biggest planet and the past record holder, has 79 known moons.

As part of a "participatory science" strategy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) asked the general public a few months ago to make proposals for the five new moons of Jupiter. Its Ganymede moon is about half the size of the Earth.

Each of the newly discovered moons is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in diameter, and 17 of them orbit in retrograde, or in the opposite direction of Saturn's rotation. In the release, Sheppard explains that these moons couldn't have been created in Saturn's youth, when a large rotating disc of gas and debris circled the planet. These small satellites are believed to be born out of bigger moons while the Saturn was taking shape. According to Sheppard, "This kind of grouping of outer moons is also seen around Jupiter, indicating violent collisions occurred between moons in the Saturnian system or with outside objects such as passing asteroids or comets". A team of scientists led by Scott S. Sheppard at the Carnegie Institution for Science has confirmed their discovery of twenty (!) additional moons orbiting Saturn. Researchers believe the moons are the fragments of at least three larger ones, which were broken apart by collisions, according to the BBC. "Using some of the world's largest telescopes, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around giant planets", said Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute for Science and lead actor in this research.

"Finding new moons of the planets is hard because they are generally very faint and thus hard to track year to year in order to get reliable orbits for them", Sheppard wrote in an email to Gizmodo.

Want to name one of Saturn's moons?

The jury is peaceable out on whether any planets previous our photo voltaic machine contain worthy extra moons. But Saturn is visibly the most surrounded. The Norse group is diverse, but the orbits and inclinations of the newest moons suggest they all originated from the same parent body. And even with the recent discoveries, Sheppard says there could be even smaller objects orbiting Saturn that remain undetected. The astronomer also noted that 17 of the 20 newly discovered moons orbit Saturn in the opposite direction while the other three orbit the same path that Saturn spins.

The competition which opened on Monday is because of shut in December. They're closer to the planet than some of the other newly discovered moons.

The rules mean two of Saturn's moons will have Canadian-inspired names - so start brushing up on your Inuit mythology.

Just past year, Sheppard found 12 new moons around Jupiter.

We hope you know a lot about giants, because that's the key to playing the name game for Saturnian moons. The retrograde moons join the Norse group (all named after Norse mythology), while two others join the Inuit group (named for Inuit mythology), and the final moon goes with the Gallic group (again, mythology).