Thursday, 20 February, 2020


Saturn is now the planet with the most moons

Newfound moons of Saturn Saturn is now the planet with the most moons
Kristine Garrett | 08 October, 2019, 12:42

Twenty new moons have been found around Saturn, giving the ringed planet a total of 82.

The team behind the discovery includes Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institution for Science, David Jewitt of UCLA, and Jan Kleyna from the University of Hawaii.

All 20 moons are tiny, measuring about 3 miles (5 kilometers) across.

"Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets", Sheppard added.

Just previous year, Dr Sheppard found 12 more moons around Jupiter and the Carnegie Institution had a naming contest for them.

FILE - The planet Jupiter is shown with one of its moons, Ganymede (bottom), in this NASA handout taken April 9, 2007.

The scientists who made the discovery, led by Scott Sheppard at the Carnegie Institute of Science in Washington, used the powerful Subaru telescope in Hawaii to gather data over several years, as well as new computing algorithms, to track potential moons and orbits.

Due to the proximity between Jupiter and Saturn, Sheppard pointed out that one of these missions could focus on the newly discovered moons.

However, it's not just a quirky new find or something topic students will have to learn - learning more about these moons could teach us something new about the evolution of their host planets, and the solar system as a whole. Jupiter's Ganymede is nearly half the size of Earth.

The new moons were slotted into three distinct categories depending on the angles at which they orbit around Saturn.

This article was first published on DW.

The new moons are all about five kilometres in diameter.

The data and calculations were submitted to the Minor Planet Centre of the International Astronomical Union, the scientific organization that assigns names to celestial bodies, which confirmed they are new moons.

If some of these newly-discovered moons were part of a larger moon that broke apart, and there was a large amount of gas and dust present at the time, then there would have been a lot of friction and collisions with the fragments of the moon.

However, in the Solar System's youth, when Saturn was in the process of forming, a cloud, or "disc", of dust and gas surrounded the planet.

One of the newly discovered retrograde objects is the furthest known saturnian satellite. "It is believed that a similar gas-and-dust disk surrounded Saturn during its formation", Sheppard explained.

Researchers noted that the formation of the retrograde moons indicates that they were likely once apart of a larger moon that was fractured.

"Studying the orbits of these moons can reveal their origins, as well as information about the conditions surrounding Saturn at the time of its formation", Sheppard said.

A third moon is part of a similar group called the Norse group that will be given names from Norse mythology. "By using this new computer power, I was able to link these 20 objects that we thought were moons to officially find orbits for them".

The moons of Saturn, from left to right: Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea; Titan in the background; Iapetus (top) and irregularly shaped Hyperion (bottom).

So, each of the two prograde moons (in blue) will be named after a giant from Inuit mythology.

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