Scientists Discover 20 New Moons Orbiting Saturn, Surpassing Jupiter For 'Most Moons' Record and Kicking Off Naming Contest

Tuesday, 08 October 2019 - 12:02PM
Solar System
Tuesday, 08 October 2019 - 12:02PM
Scientists Discover 20 New Moons Orbiting Saturn, Surpassing Jupiter For 'Most Moons' Record and Kicking Off Naming Contest
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Saturn just surpassed Jupiter as the planet with the most known moons, according to CNN. A team of scientists led by Scott S. Sheppard at the Carnegie Institution for Science has confirmed their discovery of twenty(!) additional moons orbiting Saturn. That brings Saturn's total to 82 moons, with Jupiter lagging at 79.


They're tiny little things, too. Each moon is only about three miles across, which is slightly larger than the width of Manhattan (at that size, it seems like a bit of a stretch to call them moons, but what do we know…). Seventeen of the twenty moons have what's called a "retrograde orbit," which is when a satellite orbits in the opposite direction of the planet's spin; the other three orbit with Saturn's rotation, which is called a prograde orbit.



According to a Carnegie Institute press release, Saturn's outer moons appear to have separated themselves into three distinct "clusters" based on their distance and the angle of their orbit. There are the outer moons that orbit at a 46° angle called the Inuit group because each moon is named after a figure in Inuit mythology. Two of the new prograde moons fall into this category. Then we have the Norse group (which most of the new retrograde moons belong to); one of the new Norse moons is considered the farthest-known Saturnian moon. Lastly we have the Gallic group, which are a group of four prograde outer moons.


Scientists speculate that these moons are fragments left over from a much larger moon that splintered into pieces. According to Sheppard, "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."


Last year Sheppard and Carnegie partnered to host a naming contest for the twelve moons he discovered around Jupiter, and it was successful enough to repeat.


Want to name one of Saturn's moons? These are the rules, per the Carnegie Institution for Science website:


Contest Launch Date:


October 7, 2019


Contest End Date:


December 6, 2019


How to Submit:


Tweet your suggested moon name to @SaturnLunacy and tell us why you picked it. Photos, artwork, and videos are strongly encouraged. Don't forget to include the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons.



The General Rules:


We hope you know a lot about giants,because that's the key to playing the name game for Saturnian moons.


  • Two of the newly discovered prograde moons fit into a group of outer moons with inclinations of about 46 degrees called the Inuit group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Inuit mythology.


  • Seventeen of the newly discovered moons are retrograde moons in the Norse group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Norse mythology.

  • One of the newly discovered moons orbits in the prograde direction and has an inclination near 36 degrees, which is similar to those in the Gallic group, although it is much farther away from Saturn than any other prograde moons. It must be named after a giant from Gallic mythology.


For more details, click here. And may the odds be ever in your favor.
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