You can help name Saturn's 20 new moons

An image provided by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon Titan passing in front of the giant planet in an image made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

An image provided by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon Titan passing in front of the giant planet in an image made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

It might seem odd that a planet as closely-studied as Saturn could have 20 unknown moons orbiting it, but when you consider the size of these new objects it makes a lot more sense.

As you might recall from past year, Sheppard was involved in the discovery of 12 additional moons around Jupiter, bring the Jovian giant's total to 79.

Sheppard and his team discovered the moons over the summer using a powerful telescope in Hawaii.

The 20 had been discovered by Scott S Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets. "These moons are the remnants of the objects that helped form the planets, so by studying them, we are learning about what the planets formed from".

A count of the moons listed on the NASA website shows that our Solar System's planets together have 205 confirmed moons now.

Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. They make great gifts. Names must fall into one of three categories based on the particular clusters the new moons were found in.

Each of the newly discovered moons is about five kilometers, or three miles, in diameter.

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See Sheppard's visual summary of Saturn's moons here, and peruse Sky & Telescope's catalog of solar system moons old and new here.

One of the moons orbits at an astounding distance of about 15 million miles (24 million km) from Saturn, farther away than any of its other moons. The most extreme of these new moons, designated S5613a2 m, requires 1,413 days, or 5.3 years, to revolve around Saturn, making it the farthest known moon from the gas giant. The three other moons orbit in the prograde - or the same direction as the planet. The retrograde moons join the Norse group (all named after Norse mythology), while two others join the Inuit group (named for Inuit mythology), and the final moon goes with the Gallic group (again, mythology). "There's so many of these moons now, there's nearly guaranteed to be one of these moons somewhere near where the spacecraft enters the Jupiter or Saturn environment".

In the Solar System's youth, the Sun was surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust from which the planets were born. The fact that these newly discovered moons were able to continue orbiting Saturn after their parent moons broke apart indicates that these collisions occurred after the planet-formation process was mostly complete and the disks were no longer a factor.

The Carnegie Institution for Science has invited, until December 6, suggestions for names of the 20 new moons of Saturn.

Two of the prograde moons were assigned to the Inuit group (shown in blue in the graphic above), the moons of which are named after Inuit mythology.

You can enter the contest by tweeting your ideas along with relevant images or videos to @SaturnLunacy (details here).

Twenty new moons have been found around Saturn, giving the ringed planet a total of 82.

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