Researchers Discovered 20 Tiny New Moons Circling Saturn
by Jason Daley Smithsonian.com
The discovery of 20 tiny moons circling Saturn has knocked Jupiter out of the top spot in the moon race; the new additions bring Saturn’s total to 82 moons, while Jupiter has just 79.
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. All of the newly identified moons are only about three miles in diameter and are very far from the planet itself, according to a Carnegie Institution for Science press release. Scientists report that 17 moons have retrograde orbits, meaning they travel in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation. Another three have prograde orbits, meaning they orbit in the same direction as the planet’s spin. Of those, two moons are closer to the planet, taking about two Earth-years to complete an orbit. Most of the other distant new moons take about three years to complete on orbit.
Two of the prograde moons are located in a cluster of previously discovered moons with 46 degree inclinations called the Inuit group, named after characters in Inuit mythology. Moons in the Inuit group are likely remnants of a much larger moon that broke into smaller pieces.