Saturn's new moons puts it first in the space lunar rankings

Saturn's new moons puts it first in the space lunar rankings
By: Technology Posted On: October 07, 2019 View: 14

Saturn's new moons puts it first in the space lunar rankings

The planet Saturn has become the new lunar champion of our solar system after scientists discovered 20 new moons.

Saturn now has 82 moons - 3 more than its nearest rival Jupiter, which has 79.

The new tiny moons, which measure about three miles in diameter, were discovered by scientists at The Carnegie Institution for Science using the Subaru telescope on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

The new moons can be seen from a telescope in Hawaii. Pic: Scott Sheppard
Image: The new moons can be seen from a telescope in Hawaii. Pic: Scott Sheppard

Despite being pushed into second place for the amount of moon's, Jupiter still holds the record for the solar system's biggest satellite, Ganymede, which is roughly half the size of Earth.

Seventeen of the new moons orbit the planet in reverse, or retrograde, meaning they travel in the opposite direction to Saturn's rotation on its axis. Most of these moons take around three years to complete their orbits.

The moons that orbit the planet in the same direction that it spins, or prograde, are slightly closer to Saturn, meaning it takes them about two years to do a full orbit.

It is thought that many of the new moons were once part of a larger, single moon, that was broken apart in the past.

More from Space

The team also believe that another 100 tiny moons are still waiting to be found in the planet's orbit, but will need to use much more powerful telescopes to see them in the future.

Team leader Scott Sheppard said: "Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets."

He added that the discovery of new moons plays "a crucial role in helping us determine how our Solar System's planets formed and evolved.

"These moons are the remnants of the objects that helped form the planets, so by studying them, we are learning about what the planets formed from."

Last year, Mr Sheppard and his team discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, and allowed the public to name five of them - something he is repeating with the new Saturn moons, which have to have names related to Norse, Gallic or Inuit mythology.

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