As always: science rules, religion drools. Hey, religions of the world: Why weren’t these mentioned in your holey (full of holes) books?
With its newfound companions, Saturn nudges out Jupiter as the planet with the most known moons in our cosmic neighborhood.
Jupiter may be the solar system’s king, but Saturn has a bigger entourage: Today, astronomers announced that they have discovered 20 more moons around Saturn, bringing its total number to 82—the most for any planet in the solar system. The massive haul comes just over a year after astronomers announced 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter, but with the latest finds, Saturn’s retinue now surpasses Jupiter’s 79 known natural satellites. (Explore our interactive atlas of moons.)
Taken together, these sets of relatively small moons could help astronomers better understand the many collisions that took place in the early solar system, and they could provide ripe new flyby targets for future missions to the gas giants.
Seventeen of the new moons orbit in the opposite direction of Saturn’s rotation. Each of these “retrograde” moons takes more than three years to trace out one orbit. The other three moons orbit Saturn in the same direction as the planet’s rotation. Two of these “prograde” moons take roughly two years to finish one orbit, while the third takes more than three years to go around Saturn.
Many of these moons may be too small to see (not much larger than Mars’s Phobos and Deimos), but they’re still moons.
The Carnegie Institution for Science is holding a contest to name the new moons, within specific rules based on the moons’s orbits and groupings. Click to read more….