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Discoveries Mean Saturn Leads Jupiter in Moons, 82-79

A bigger telescope will have to be invented before more can be spotted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2019 6:02 PM CDT
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A 2008 NASA image shows Saturn, as seen from the Cassini spacecraft.   (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute via AP, File)

(Newser) – The solar system has a new winner in the moon department: 20 new moons have been found around Saturn, giving the ringed planet a total of 82, scientists said Monday. That beats Jupiter and its 79 moons, the AP reports. "It was fun to find that Saturn is the true moon king," said astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science. If it's any consolation to the Jupiter crowd, our solar system's biggest planet—Jupiter—still has the biggest moon. Jupiter's Ganymede is almost half the size of Earth. By contrast, Saturn's 20 new moons are minuscule, each barely 3 miles in diameter. Sheppard and his team used a telescope in Hawaii to spot Saturn's 20 new moons over the summer. About 100 even tinier moons may be orbiting Saturn, still waiting to be found, he said.

Astronomers have pretty much completed the inventory of moons as small as 3 miles around Saturn and 1 mile around Jupiter, Sheppard said. Future larger telescopes will be needed to see anything smaller. It's harder spotting mini moons around Saturn than Jupiter, Sheppard said, because Saturn is farther. These baby moons may have come from larger parent moons that broke apart right after Saturn formed. The new moons are so far from Saturn that it takes two to three years to complete a single orbit. "These moons are the remnants of the objects that helped form the planets, so by studying them, we are learning about what the planets formed from," Sheppard wrote.

(Read more Saturn stories.)

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