Move over, Jupiter. There is a new moon champ in our solar system – Saturn. Researchers have found a further 20 moons orbiting the ringed planet, giving it a complete of 82 satellites, three more than second-place Jupiter. Of the 20 moons, which are tiny at just three miles across, 17 have retrograde orbits, meaning “their motion is reverse of the planet’s rotation around its axis,” following an information release asserting the discovery. These moons take three Earth years to orbit Saturn fully. The other three, which additionally take three years to circle the gas giant, orbit in prograde—the same path that Saturn rotates in.
“Learning the orbits of those moons can reveal their origins, in addition to details about the circumstances surrounding Saturn on the time of its formation,” Carnegie Establishment for Science researcher Scott Sheppard mentioned in a statement.
Given their small dimension and the fact they’re grouped in the same method to the outer moons of Jupiter; it is probably they’re the remnants of a bigger moon that orbited Saturn and was destroyed. “This type of grouping of outer moons is also seen around Jupiter, indicating violent collisions occurred between moons within the Saturn system or with outdoors objects equivalent to passing asteroids or comets,” Sheppard added.
Sheppard, who additionally found 12 moons orbiting Jupiter final 12 months, stated that the small moons of planets like Jupiter and Saturn would give researchers new clues into how these planets formed. “Utilizing among the largest telescopes on this planet, we are finishing the stock of small moons across the large planets,” Sheppard continued. “They play an important function in serving to us decide how our solar system’s planets formed and evolved.”