On Monday, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center confirmed 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, making it the planet with the most moons in our Solar System, at 82.
The 20 had been discovered by Scott S Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Until their confirmation, the planet with the most moons was Jupiter, at 79.
A count of the moons listed on the NASA website shows that our Solar System’s planets together have 205 confirmed moons now. Saturn and Jupiter, with 161 between them, account for nearly 80% of these. Another 20% are orbiting Uranus (27) and Neptune (14). Of the remaining three moons, one is Earth’s own while the other two are with Mars.
Mercury is so close to the Sun and its gravity that it wouldn’t be able to hold on to its own moon, NASA explains.
Any moon would most likely crash into Mercury or maybe go into orbit around the Sun and eventually get pulled into it. It is not yet clear, however, why Venus does not have a moon.
The newly discovered moons of Saturn are about 5 km each in diameter. Seventeen orbit Saturn opposite to the planet’s rotation, and three in the same direction as Saturn’s rotation.
The Carnegie Institution for Science has invited, until December 6, suggestions for names of the 20 new moons of Saturn. The rules are at: https://carnegiescience.edu/NameSaturnsMoons.
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