Saturn crowned as new 'king of moons' in the solar system

That surpasses Jupiter, which was the prior reigning champion with 79 moons.

"I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we've chose to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons", Sheppard said. Two of the new prograde moons appear to belong to a group that swings around Saturn at an angle of about 46 degrees.

Saturn has taken over from Jupiter as host to the most moons in the solar system after astronomers spotted 20 more lumps of rock orbiting the ringed planet. By comparing images taken over hours and days, the algorithms distinguished between stationary stars and galaxies and moons that hurtled around the planet.

"Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets", Sheppard added.

The new moons are all about five kilometres in diameter.

The observing team that discovered the new moons using the Subaru telescope included Dr Sheppard, David Jewitt of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Jan Kleyna of the University of Hawaii.

Sheppard discovered a dozen Jupiter moons past year, and the Carnegie Institution organized a public contest to name five of those worlds.

It invited the public to propose official names for the moons, which are now identified by a series of letters and numbers.

"Studying the orbits of these moons can reveal their origins, as well as information about the conditions surrounding Saturn at the time of its formation", said Sheppard in a release from Carnegie on Monday.

Two of the moons are part of a group of moons called the Inuit group, whose original members were discovered by Canadian astronomers and named by team member John Kavelaars, now at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, and Inuit storyteller and children's author Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak. Suggestions can be tweeted to @SaturnLunacy with the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons.

A third moon is part of a similar group called the Norse group that will be given names from Norse mythology. Seventeen of them have retrograde orbits, meaning they move around Saturn in the opposite direction to the planet's rotation. One is the most distant moon ever spotted from the planet.

For example, the newfound moons' existence suggests that the impacts that created them occurred after Saturn was fully formed, Sheppard said. "But since Saturn's further away, it's harder to detect its moons".

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