Move over, Jupiter. There’s a new moon king in our solar system. In February, scientists announced the discovery of several new moons orbiting, or circling, Jupiter.
Jupiter moved ahead of Saturn as the planet with the most moons.
But the record didn’t last long. In May, astronomers revealed that they had found an additional 63 moons circling Saturn. With 146 moons, the ringed planet is back on top.
Two groups of astronomers made the discovery. Each team used images of Saturn taken by separate giant telescopes on a mountaintop in Hawaii.
Saturn’s newly discovered moons are much different than Earth’s moon. For one thing, they’re about 1,000 times smaller. Each is only a few miles wide. Also, they aren’t round.
“They likely have an elongated shape, sort of like a potato,” says Edward Ashton. He led one of the teams that identified Saturn’s new moons.
The new moons are thought to be younger than Earth’s moon. But they’re still billions of years old. Ashton and other scientists believe the small moons are pieces of larger ones that crashed into each other.
The hunt for moons around Saturn continues. And Ashton is sure the number will grow.
“I can say with 100 percent certainty that more moons will be discovered,” he says.