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Scientists have discovered 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, bringing the planet’s total up to 82 moons. It was announced on Monday from Carnegie Institution for Science.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth. It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth; however, with its larger volume, Saturn is over 95 times more massive. Saturn is named after the Roman god of wealth and agriculture; its astronomical symbol (♄) represents the god’s sickle.
“Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets,” Scott Sheppard, a Carnegie astronomer who led the discovery team, said in a press release. “They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our solar system’s planets formed and evolved.”
Each of the newly discovered moons is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in diameter, and 17 of them orbit in retrograde, or in the opposite direction of Saturn’s rotation.
“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.
The scientists observed the 20 new moons with the Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
“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.”
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