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Another score for Saturn: 20 newly discovered moons for the ringed planet

8 Oct 2019, 13:00 UTC
Another score for Saturn: 20 newly discovered moons for the ringed planet
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Until recently, we knew Saturn had a lot of moons. However, now we know it has a whole lot more.

Astronomers just announced that they’ve found 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet. Twenty! That’s quite a load. It makes Saturn the record-holder for number of moons; a dozen new moons were recently discovered around Jupiter, giving it 79. Saturn has that easily beat… for now.

These moons are all small — roughly 5 kilometers across — and orbit Saturn at great distances. The closest one in is over 17 million km from the planet! The farthest is over 26. For comparison, the farthest discrete ring of Saturn (the F ring) is 140,000 or so km from the planet’s center. Earth’s Moon orbits 385,000 km from our planet’s center. So these moons are incredibly distant.

Schematic showing the orbits of 20 newly discovered moons around Saturn. 17 of them form a group (red) that orbit “backwards” or retrograde, two (blue) are part of another group orbiting prograde, and another orbits prograde (green) and may be an outlier of a group farther in. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute and Scott Sheppard; starry background courtesy of Paolo Sartorio/Shutterstock

That makes their discovery all ...

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