Saturn surpasses Jupiter with most number of moons: Everything we know

On Monday (October 7, 2019), the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center announced the discovery of 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, bringing the planet's total number of moons to 82.

Sheppard was also part of the team that recently discovered 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter.

Sheppard and his team used a telescope in Hawaii to spot Saturn's 20 new moons over the summer.

"Studying the orbits of these moons can reveal their origins, as well as information about the conditions surrounding Saturn at the time of its formation", institution's staff scientist Scott S. Sheppard said, according to the release. Of those, two moons are closer to the planet, taking about two Earth-years to complete an orbit. "They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our Solar System's planets formed and evolved".

The new moons are each about 3 miles in diameter and 17 orbit Saturn backwards, or in the opposite direction the planet rotates around its own axis, according to the release.

The solar system has a new victor in the moon department. Get your 2020 lunar calendars today.

"I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we've chose to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons", Sheppard said.

The other three moons orbit in the same direction as Saturn rotates. Two of the prograde moons require around two years to make a complete orbit of the gas giant, while the remaining 18 moons require more than three years to make a single orbit (our Moon requires 27 days to make a complete orbit around Earth). The third, and the more-distant retrograde moons, each take more than three years to complete an orbit. The newly discovered retrograde moons appear to belong to a group of moons, named after Norse mythology, thought to be fragments of a much bigger parent moon that was smashed to pieces in the solar system's violent past.

"I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we've chose to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons", Sheppard said.

In the Solar System's youth, the Sun was surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust from which the planets were born. "Because these new moons are on inclined orbits far from Saturn itself, we believe these new moons were captured by Saturn just after the planet formation process".

Monday's announcement came from the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. The Carnegie Institution had a moon-naming contest for them; another is planned now for Saturn's new moons.

Two of the prograde moons are located in a cluster of previously discovered moons with 46 degree inclinations called the Inuit group, named after characters in Inuit mythology.

You can enter the contest by tweeting your ideas along with relevant images or videos to @SaturnLunacy (details here). Currently, astronomers are "only able to find moons that are a a few miles in size around Saturn because the planet is so far away", he said.