Saturn outshines Jupiter in ‘moon race’; total count at 145
A new study have unveiled 62 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing Saturn's official count of natural satellites to a grand total of 145.
Planet Saturn has made a remarkable comeback to reclaim the title of the “planet with the highest number of moons”, surpassing Jupiter, which temporarily took the lead in February with its 12 newly discovered moons. A new study have unveiled an astonishing 62 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing Saturn's official count of natural satellites to a grand total of 145. In contrast, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has confirmed Jupiter's moon count at 95.
As reported by The Guardian, the newly discovered moons of Saturn have currently been designated with numbers and letters. In due course, these moons will be bestowed with names inspired by Gallic, Norse, and Canadian Inuit gods, following the established convention for Saturn's moons.
“Saturn not only has nearly doubled its number of moons, it now has more moons than all the rest of the planets in the solar system combined,” an astronomer at the University of British Columbia was quoted as saying. He mentioned that their team would be seeking guidance from Inuit elders to gather proposals that could subsequently be presented to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for approval.
According to reports from the Associated Press (AP), Jupiter and Saturn are host to a multitude of small moons. Researchers believe that these moons are remnants of larger moons that collided with each other or with comets and asteroids.
Similar processes are thought to have occurred on Uranus and Neptune as well, but due to their significant distance from Earth, the task of spotting and studying their moons becomes even more challenging.
The Guardian's report further said that Nasa's upcoming Dragonfly mission, anticipated to be launched in 2027, holds the promise of enabling close-up observations of at least one of Saturn's smaller outer moons.
Technique to discover moons
The study, cited in the report, mentioned an innovative technique known as “shift and stack” to uncover dimmer and smaller satellites. This method involves shifting consecutive images at a rate that matches the moon's motion across the sky, resulting in a brighter appearance when the data is combined.
A recent study on Saturn's rings said that the scientists have made a remarkable discovery indicating that the rings were acquired relatively recently in the grand timeline of the solar system's history.
By analysing data gathered from Nasa's Cassini spacecraft, experts have concluded that the colossal rings did not form concurrently with the planet itself. Instead, they estimate that the formation of these majestic rings took place no more than 400 million years ago.
The co-author of the research confirmed, “It is natural to think that the rings have been formed together with Saturn [which is] about 4.5bn years old.”