Saturn now has the most of any solar system planet
Saturn now has the known moons of any planet in the solar system
Saturn now rules as the “lunar king” of the solar system, thanks to 20 newly acquired satellites. This leads to the fact that the total number of known satellites on the ring planet reaches 82, knocking down Jupiter – from 79 moons (SN: 17/17/18) – from the throne, announced the Center of Minor Planets of the International Astronomical Union on October 7.
And this is not just a stage. Saturn is likely to retain its title, says Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Science Institute in Washington, DC. He estimates that Saturn has about 100 moons, but the rest are so small, less than 1 kilometer across, that they are difficult to identify.
In fact, it took Sheppard and his colleagues years to confirm that some of the spots captured on images taken by the Subaru telescope in Hawaii from 2004 to 2007 were actually satellites around Saturn. Comparing the locations of objects over time, the team found that three of the newfound moons move in the same direction, spinning in the same direction that Saturn rotates, and 17 are retrograde, moving in the opposite direction. Each has a width of 2 to 5 kilometers.
All but one of the newfound moons break up into three existing clusters of moons. Astronomers believe that these groups formed when large satellites disintegrated, either colliding with each other (SN: 05.21.18), or with a passing comet. But one programmed moon is a strange ball: the angle of the axis indicates that it belongs to other similar moons that fall into a two-year orbit. But he is further than the retrograde, where he surrounds Saturn after three years.
Sheppard says something could have diverted this moon from its cluster. Or it may belong to the fourth group created by some unknown event during the formation of Saturn. Finding more moons can help solve this riddle. But, Sheppard says, “if we want to find smaller ones, we have to get big telescopes.”