Saturn is the solar system's 'moon king,' with 20 more spotted

Saturn is the solar system's 'moon king,' with 20 more spotted

The plant now has 82 known moons that span about three miles. In many ways, Earth's moon is the ideal introduction to teach humanity some very basic things about how the universe works.

Jupiter may be the king of the planets, but - right now, at least - Saturn is the king of moons. It probably took the scientific community so long to discover the twenty-odd moons circling Saturn is because of the great distance of the planet from the Earth.

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.

Astronomers have launched a contest to name 20 newly discovered moons around Saturn - and the suggestions are already getting loony. 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.

"I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we've chose to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons", Sheppard said.

Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

The other three moons orbit in the same direction as Saturn rotates.

"They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our solar system " s planets formed and evolved", Sheppard continued.

"I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we've chose to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons", Sheppard said. In the release, Sheppard explains that these moons couldn't have been created in Saturn's youth, when a large rotating disc of gas and debris circled the planet.

The discovery unlocks a trove of possible new hints at how Saturn and its moons became what they are today. They're taking the same approach with this new group of moons. The Norse group is diverse, but the orbits and inclinations of the newest moons suggest they all originated from the same parent body.

Two of the newly discovered prograde moons must be named for giants from Inuit mythology.

Seventeen of the moons will have Norse names, two will have Inuit names and one will have a Gallic name, according to the contest page. This moves the ringed planet past Jupiter as the most "moonfluential" denizen of our solar system. Seeing that Saturn "has more moons even though it is harder to find them, shows just how many moons Saturn has collected over time", Sheppard told Gizmodo. It is believed that a similar gas-and-dust disk surrounded Saturn during its formation.

The naming contest runs until December 6, although there are a few rules that will surely disappoint the Moony McMoonFace shippers. Sorry, but Saturn McSaturnFace won't be allowed, as the names have to conform to their mythological groupings, along with other naming conventions.

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