The reign of Jupiter, named after the father of the Olympian gods, was long and sweet. Apart from being the largest planet in the solar system, this gas giant in the 17th century has shown that planets other than Earth can carry a system of moons. Between his size, his strong magnetic field and the system of 79 moons, Jupiter seemed to remain the king of the planets for good. But it looks like Saturn, named after the father of Jupiter in Greco – Roman mythology might have just knocked Jupiter off this pedestal. Thanks to a team led by the famous astronomer Scott S. Sheppard, 20 new moons were discovered orbiting Saturn. This brings the total number of Saturn (or Krona) satellites to 82, ahead of Jupiter's 79. And the best? You can help to name them!
The discovery was announced today (Monday, October 7) by the Minor Planet Center (MPEC) of the International Astronomical Union. The team responsible for the discoveries included Sheppard, David Jewitt of UCLA and Jan Kleyna of the University of Hawaii with the 8.2-meter Subaru telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii.
These newly discovered satellites all fall into the outer group of Saturn's moons, which are divided into three distinct clusters the inclinations of their orbits around the planet. They are known as Inuit, Norse and Gallic groups, named after mythological figures that derive from the traditions of each of these cultures.
Two of the newly discovered progressive moons fit into the Inuit group, which slopes about 46 ° ° while the retrograde moons are part of the Nordic group. The two satellites closest to Saturn have prograde motions and a orbital period of about two years, while the more distant moons – which include two retrograde and one prograde moon – have orbital periods of more than three years.
The other Prograde Moon has a railway grade near 36 ° which resembles the other moons in the Gallic group. Interestingly, the two new Inuit moons should have been part of a larger moon that had broken apart in the past. By studying these and other previously undiscovered satellites, astronomers can learn a lot about the formation and evolution of the Saturn system.
Sheppard recently stated in a Carnegie Science press release:
"The study of the orbits of these moons may reveal their origin as well as information about the conditions around Saturn at the time of its formation. Jupiter is also surrounded by outer moons, reflecting indicates violent collisions between moons in the Saturn system or with external objects such as passing asteroids or comets. "