Saturn is the second-largest planet in the solar system, outsized only by Jupiter. Now, it’s time for Saturn to win over Jupiter in one aspect – the number of moons. Astronomers spotted over 20 new moons that orbit Saturn.
Saturn dethroned Jupiter as the planet with most moons
Until now, Jupiter was the planet with most moons, more specifically, 79. Now, as scientists spotted over 20 new natural satellites around Saturn, the planet dethroned Jupiter. Now, Saturn has 82 moons.
However, these new moons are not massive. Most of them have about 5 kilometers in diameter. Also, 17 of them orbit Saturn in retrograde. The discovery of these new moons around Saturn helps scientists learn more about the planet’s formation and its evolution.
“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,” explained Scott S. Sheppard from Carnegie Institution for Science, and the leading author of the study.
Most of the new moons of Saturn were part of a more massive moon
Also, the presence of those 17 moons that orbit Saturn in retrograde indicates that they were part of a large moon that tore apart.
“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,” said Sheppard.
“The fact that these newly discovered moons were able to continue orbiting Saturn after their parent moons broke apart indicates that these collisions occurred after the planet formation process was mostly complete and the disks were no longer a factor,” Sheppard added.
As it happened after the finding of a dozen moons orbiting Jupiter, in 2018, you can now get involved in naming the new moons around Saturn. Any names related to Norse or Gallic mythology are welcome. You can do that here.