Over the past centuries, astronomers believed that Jupiter, the largest planet of our solar system, also has the most number of moons. And this is what many of have also learnt back in school. However, according to the latest research by a team of space scientists led by Carnegie Institution for Science’s Scott S. Sheppard, this theory is set to change. According to the findings of this research, which was announced on Monday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, Saturn, and not Jupiter which has the most number of moons revolving around it.
How many moons does Saturn have?
According to the findings of Carnegie Institution for Science’s Scott S. Sheppard, as many as 20 moons that were previously unknown to exist have been discovered. The ringed planet was earlier thought to have 62 moons. With the discovery of these new moons, the total tally of satellites for Saturn now stands at 82 surpassing its neighbouring planet Jupiter.
How many moons does Jupiter have?
As per the data provided in the research, Jupiter currently has as many as 79 satellites revolving around it.
What is significant about Saturn’s newly discovered moons?
To begin with, each of the 20 newly discovered moons of Saturn is about 5 kilometres (3 miles) in diameter, according to the findings of the research. out of this, as many as 17 moons orbit the ringed planet backwards, in the direction opposite to Saturn’s rotation, while the other three moons rotate in the same direction as that of the planet.
The 17 moons which orbit backwards (retrograde moons) and one of the moon which orbits in the Saturn’s direction (prograde moons) take more than three years to complete an orbit. The other two prograde moons are closer to Saturn and take around two years to complete their orbit. “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,” Sheppard explained in a statement.
The researchers found that these outer satellites orbit the ringed planet in three clusters called Inuit, Norse and Gallic. “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,” Sheppard said in the statement.
How were Saturn’s new moons discovered?
The 20 new moons of Saturn were discovered with the help of Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The observing team included Sheppard, David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Jan Kleyna of the University of Hawaii.
“Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets,” Sheppard said adding that “They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our Solar System’s planets formed and evolved.”
This apart, the researchers have also started a contest to name the newly discovered moons of Saturn. They are asking for suggestions from the general public until December 6, 2019.