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With the discovery of another 20 moons orbiting Saturn, the planet has become the newest record holder of our solar system with 82 moons! The post use to belong to Jupiter, with 79, but with the new discovery Saturn jump to the first place.
Saturn’s 20 New Moons
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The discovery of Saturn’s new moons was announced in October 2019 by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Each of these stars is about 5 kilometers in diameter.
17 of these moons orbit in the opposite direction to the rotation of Saturn called the “retrograde direction”. The furthest from this set takes more than three years to go full circle around the planet. The other 3 follow Saturn’s natural direction of rotation, two of which are closer to the planet and take about two years to complete a full turn.
Considered the most important telescope in Japan’s National Astronomical Observatory, Subaru was responsible for the discovery of Saturn’s 20 new moons. It is located at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Observatory on its highest mountain.
Scientists believe that these new discoveries will play a key role in determining how the planets of our Solar System was formed and evolved.
Saturn’s Main Moons: Presence of Water and Potential Candidates for Life Outside Earth Saturn’s first moon was discovered in 1655. Over 200 years, seven more were seen by scientists and in 1997 alone, astronomers found 18 new moons in orbit around the planet.
NASA’s important mission Cassini was responsible for finding the rest of the moons we knew until mid-2019.
This is a list of Saturn’s main moons and their characteristics.
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Saturn’s largest moon is the 2nd biggest in the known Solar System, second only to Ganymede, Jupiter’s moon. It is the only moon in our system known to have an atmosphere consisting primarily of nitrogen. This fact makes her a great candidate for life off earth.
Titan is bigger than the planet Mercury. This giant also has rain, clouds, rivers and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons like Ethane and Methane. An astronaut could walk on Titan’s surface without a pressure suit, would only need an oxygen mask and protection against the average temperature of minus 179 degrees Celsius.
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This fascinating freezing moon has fundamental functions for Saturn. Enceladus has over 100 geysers at its south pole. These geysers work like jets that release water vapor and ice particles from an underground ocean.
The particles released by Enceladus travel at about 400 meters per second and form a cloud that stretches for miles in space. Some of this material falls back on the moon and others form the vast E-ring of Saturn.
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Also known as the yin and yang of Saturn’s moons, Iapetus has in its main hemisphere a reflectivity as dark as coal and in its right hemisphere an extremely shiny surface. This contrast fascinated astronomers for many years.
Iapetus is the third largest moon on Saturn, with an average radius of 736 kilometers. It is believed that this moon is made up of three quarters of ice and a quarter of rock.
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Saturn’s second largest moon revealed in 2010 one of the most extraordinary facts: a very thin atmosphere containing oxygen and carbon dioxide was found. This was the first time a spacecraft had captured oxygen molecules in a solar body off Earth.
Rhea is a moon that has many craters and its body is composed of ice, with mixed rock traces. This feature makes scientists compare it to a dirty snowball.
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Looking at the images of Tethys we notice a huge crater and a large valley. This crater, called the Odysseus, is the result of an impact and dominates much of the western hemisphere of the moon.
This natural satellite travels very close to Saturn and is influenced by the gravitational force of the planet. The heat of Saturn causes the frozen surface of Tethys to melt and fill craters and other signs of impact.
You can help name the new 20 moons discovered on Saturn. Click here!