Saturday, 06 June, 2020

Explained: Which planet has how many moons?

Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science Saturn image is courtesy of NASA  JPL-Caltech  Space Science Institute Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science Saturn image is courtesy of NASA JPL-Caltech Space Science Institute
Sandy Nunez | 12 October, 2019, 03:27

The planet now has the most moons, surpassing Jupiter's 79 moons.

Observers discovered the new moons using the Suburu telescope at the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. "These moons are the remnants of the objects that helped form the planets, so by studying them, we are learning about what the planets formed from". Jupiter's Ganymede is almost half the size of Earth. By contrast, Saturn's 20 new moons are minuscule, each barely 3 miles (5 kilometers) in diameter.

"Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets", he Sheppard. Scientists believe that Saturn may have another hundred small moons. "This type of grouping of outer moons is also seen around Jupiter, indicating violent collisions occurred between moons within the Saturn system or with outdoors objects equivalent to passing asteroids or comets", Sheppard added.

Scientists think each of those groups may have come from a larger moon that broke apart into smaller bodies.

"It was fun to find that Saturn is the true moon king", said astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

The institution writes that Saturn's outer moons "appear to be" grouped in three different "clusters" due to the "inclinations of the angles at which they are orbiting around the planet". One of them is now the farthest known moon from Saturn. The new discoveries are cool in and of themselves, but ultimately, it's what they tell us about the solar system's formation that motivates Sheppard's search. Of those, two moons are closer to the planet, taking about two Earth-years to complete an orbit. This moves the ringed planet past Jupiter as the most "moonfluential" denizen of our solar system. "This time, the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic, or Inuit mythology".

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Researchers are constantly making new discoveries in a universe full of endless mysteries.

Of the 20 new moons, 17 are orbiting the moon "backwards", that is, in a direction opposite to the planet's motion. About 100 even tinier moons could well also be orbiting Saturn, peaceable waiting to be stumbled on, he said.

The submissions for the seventeen new retrograde moon in the Norse group should be based on giants from Norse mythology.

Despite the naming guidelines in place, there are already out-of-bounds suggestions on Twitter for naming Saturn, including "Mooncricket" and "Moon Tae-il", in homage to the South Korean boy band singer. "All title submissions for this group needs to be giants from Inuit mythology". The retrograde moons join the Norse group (all named after Norse mythology), while two others join the Inuit group (named for Inuit mythology), and the final moon goes with the Gallic group (again, mythology).

Excitingly, a contest has been created for the public to choose names for the 20 moons.