Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Saturn Surpasses Jupiter as Planet with Most Moons

NEW-SATURN-Oddball-moon-orbit Saturn surpasses Jupiter after the discovery of 20 new moons
Sandra Phillips | 08 October, 2019, 12:42

The discovery images for the newly found very distant prograde moon of Saturn.

Saturn has broken a new solar system record with the discovery of 20 new moons circling it. Studying these moons can reveal information about their formation and about the conditions around Saturn at the time.

Depending on when you finished school, you might have learned that Jupiter or Saturn has the most moons.

Scientists discovered 20 previously unknown moons orbiting Saturn, which gives Saturn a grand total of 82 moons, flying past Jupiter's 79.

Sheppard says he thinks Saturn probably has 100 moons that are a kilometre in size or bigger, but astronomers may need to wait for the next generation of bigger, better telescopes to confirm them all. But 17 of the 20 have a retrograde orbit of Saturn, meaning they essentially orbit backwards from the planet and other moons. The other three moons orbit in the prograde-the same direction as Saturn rotates.

Two (in blue in the above illustration) are "prograde" moons, orbiting in the same direction as the closer moons.

One of the three newly discovered "prograde" moons has an orbital period of more than three Earth years, while the other two complete one lap every two years or so.

These moons have been alongside Saturn for a long time, it just took astronomers a long time to find them because they are so small.

The rules are fairly straight forward - the name for each moon must be that of a giant from mythology, and the name must come from the mythology of that moon's group.

A Hubble telescope image of Jupiter.

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'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, ' said Sheppard. But the newly discovered moon is farther out than the others.

These inclinations suggest that the new moons could be chunks of ice and rock leftover from a larger moon that split apart in Saturn's past, Sheppard explained to The Register. This would have cause the newly-created moons to spiral into Saturn's atmosphere and be lost.

However, in the Solar System's youth, when Saturn was in the process of forming, a cloud, or "disc", of dust and gas surrounded the planet.

Carnegie Science's Scott Sheppard announced the discovery Monday, along with news of the contest.

In addition to Sheppard, the observing team included UCLA's David Jewitt and the University of Hawaii's Jan Kleyna.

Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

"We thought they were moons of Saturn, but we weren't able to get full orbits to determine this", said Dr Sheppard.

"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", Dr Sheppard wrote.

A new announcement from Scott Sheppard, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution for Science, has crowned a new king, though - Saturn. The most extreme of these new moons, designated S5613a2 m, requires 1,413 days, or 5.3 years, to revolve around Saturn, making it the farthest known moon from the gas giant.

Two of the prograde moons were assigned to the Inuit group (shown in blue in the graphic above), the moons of which are named after Inuit mythology.

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