Saturn is now the planet with the most moons after the discovery of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed gas giant.
Jupiter has been blown off its thrown as 'king of the moons' by Saturn because a research team from Carnegie Institute of Science discovered a whopping 20 new moons orbiting the ringed gas giant.
As of this moment, Jupiter has 79 known moons in its orbit, but with the discovery of 20 new moons, the tally for Saturn is now at 82. All of the newly discovered moons are approximately five kilometers in diameter. Interestingly 17 of them orbit the planet in a retrograde direction, so in the opposite direction of the spin of Saturn itself. The retrograde moons take about three years to orbit Saturn once.
Scott Sheppard, the lead scientist for this research, stated that the orbits could reveal some information about their origin in addition to details about Saturn during its creation.
The moons were discovered with the use of the Subaru-Telescope in Hawaii. It has been quite some time since the last discovery of a new moon in orbit of Saturn as the last discovery was in July 2009. Although in April 2014, scientists did discover the possible beginning of a new moon, within the A.ring.
Sheppard and his team expect that the newly discovered moons once were a part of a much larger moon that got broken apart in the distant past. The ancient parent moon could have been hit by asteroids or might even have had a collision with another moon.
The researchers think that if large amounts of gas or dust were present when the parent moon got broken apart, a significant amount of tiny moons resulting from that breakup would have spiraled into Saturn because of the resulting friction.
The researchers encourage people to take part in a contest to name the newly discovered moons. Sheppard stated that the previous moon-naming contest (for new Jupiter moons) was a great success! So if you have a cool idea for a name, be sure to check out the contest: here - You can start sending in suggestions today, the contest will end on the 6th of December this year.
Sources and further reading: NASA Cassini Images May Reveal Birth of a Saturn Moon / Subaru Telescope / Carnegie Institute press release
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