The three other moons orbit in the prograde - or the same direction as the planet. In many ways, Earth's moon is the flawless introduction to teach humanity some very basic things about how the universe works.
On Monday, the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center confirmed 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, making it the planet with the most moons in our Solar System, at 82.
Shedding more light on the size of the moons, astronomers explained that each is about 3 miles of five kilometers in diameter. By contrast, Earth's moon is over 2,158 miles wide.
A survey of Saturn's outer reaches has resulted in the discovery of 20 new moons.
"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", said Sheppard. Sheppard had previously led a team in discovering of 10 new moons around Jupiter, announced past year, using the 6.5-m Magellan-Baade reflector Las Campanas and the 4.0-m Blanco reflector on Cerro Tololo.
Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. The other three orbit in the same direction Saturn spins, as is typically the case.
"They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our solar system " s planets formed and evolved", Sheppard continued. 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). They could watch the moons orbiting Saturn moving against a backdrop of stars and galaxies that appear still due to their distance.
The team behind the discovery includes Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institution for Science, David Jewitt of UCLA, and Jan Kleyna from the University of Hawaii. All 17 of the retrograde moons have similar inclinations to the Norse group (shown in red), so that's where they've been placed. Sheppard said Jupiter was the planet with most known moons since the late 1990s, according to BBC News. The moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic, or Inuit mythology. Names must fall into one of three categories based on the particular clusters the new moons were found in. Jupiter's Ganymede is nearly half the size of Earth. "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".
The naming contest runs until December 6, although there are a few rules that will surely disappoint the Moony McMoonFace shippers.
The rules mean two of Saturn's moons will have Canadian-inspired names - so start brushing up on your Inuit mythology.
If you discovered a moon, what would you name it?