Step Aside Jupiter, Saturn Is The New Moon King Of Milky Way

Saturn now reigns as the Milky Way’s new “moon king,” all because of the 20 newfound moons. That brings the known moons of Saturn to 82, knocking Jupiter — with 79 moons — off the throne, according to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. A team under the leadership of Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard (Astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C) has found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn.

Scott Sheppard further added that it’s not just a simple condition as Saturn is likely to keep its title. He expects that Saturn has about 100 moons — but the remaining ones are hard to identify as they are so small. The same way, it took Sheppard and his colleagues years to verify that some of the spots captured in images taken from 2004 to 2007 by the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii were the satellites orbiting Saturn.

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About The Research

By examining the objects’ locations over time, the team discovered that three of the newfound moons are prograde(orbiting in the same direction), while 17 are retrograde(traveling in the opposite direction). Each of the moons is between 2 and 5 kilometers wide.

Two of the recently found prograde moons belong to a group of external moons, which inclines about 46 degrees. As they named it after Inuit mythology, hence called the Inuit group. These moons may have once comprised a giant moon that was broken apart in the past. Moreover, the newly announced retrograde moons have the same inclinations as to the other previously known retrograde Saturnian moons. This indicates that they are also likely bits from a once-larger parent moon that broke apart. Though it’s farther out among the retrogrades, where it circles Saturn in three years, these retrograde moons belong to the Norse group, named after the Norse mythology. One amongst the newly discovered retrograde moons is the farthest known moon around Saturn.

However, one prograde moon is an oddball, i.e., the angle of its axis’s tilt hints that it belongs with other related moons that fall within a two-year orbit. The other recently found the prograde moon is inclined nearly 36 degrees, which is identical to the other known grouping of internal prograde moons throughout Saturn, known as “Gallic group.” Although the new moon orbits much farther away from Saturn than any of the other prograde moons, symbolizing it might have been pulled outwards over time.

Finding more moons may help solve the big puzzle

Sheppard said, “if we want to find the smaller ones, we have to get bigger telescopes. Using some of the biggest telescopes of the world, we are now developing the record of small moons throughout the enormous planets,” says Scott Sheppard. “They play a significant role in supporting us to discover how the planets of our Solar System created and evolved.”

The previous year, Sheppard, along with his team, discovered 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter, and they hosted an online competition to name five of the moons. This time, the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic, or Inuit mythology.”

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