Saturn now has 82 known moons after astronomers announced the discovery of 20 new ones. The exciting part is, they’re asking the public to help them come up with names.
The Carnegie Institution for Science made the announcement over their Twitter account, saying: “Thanks to @CarnegiePlanets’ Scott Sheppard discovering 20 new moons of Saturn, it has surpassed Jupiter for the most moons in our Solar System!”
Scott Sheppard, who is also from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., led the discovery team. He and his colleagues — David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Jan Kleyna of the University of Hawaii — found the Saturn moons using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
“Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets,” Sheppard added. “They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our solar system’s planets formed and evolved.”
As part of the celebration, the research institution said that they would be drawing from the public on which names will be used for the newly discovered satellites, similar to when Sheppard discovered a dozen Jupiter moons last year, where they organized a public contest to name five of those new moons.
“I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we’ve decided to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons,” Sheppard said. “This time, the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic, or Inuit mythology.”
You can join the competition by submitting your proposal by tweeting @SaturnLunacy from now until December 6. Include your reasoning and the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons.
“Photos, artwork, and videos are strongly encouraged,” organizers wrote on the naming-contest page found here.
Saturn has overtaken Jupiter as the solar system’s satellite king, where the tinged planet tally of known satellites to 82 is now three more than Jupiter.
All 20 moons are tiny, measuring about 3 miles (5 kilometers) across. Seventeen of Saturn’s new moons orbit the planet in the opposite, or retrograde, direction. The other three circles in the same direction that Saturn rotates. They’re so far from Saturn that it takes two to three years to complete a single orbit.
The 17 retrograde moons appear to belong to the “Norse group” of Saturn satellites, which share the same basic orbital parameters. The two innermost prograde objects align with the “Inuit group,” and the outermost prograde moon among the new finds may belong to the “Gallic group,” but that’s unclear at the moment, researchers said.
“This kind of grouping of outer moons is also seen around Jupiter, indicating violent collisions occurred between moons in the Saturnian system or with outside objects such as passing asteroids or comets,” Sheppard said in a statement today (October 7).
On the other hand, Jupiter, our solar system’s biggest planet, still has the biggest moon. Jupiter’s Ganymede is almost half the size of Earth.