The discovery unlocks a trove of possible new hints at how Saturn and its moons became what they are today.
With the discovery of 20 more moons orbiting Saturn, the ringed planet has overtaken Jupiter as host to the most moons in the Solar system.
Sheppard and his team discovered the moons over the summer using a powerful telescope in Hawaii.
There's no civilization living on the ringed gas giant Saturn, of course, but if there were, they'd have a whole lot more to see when gazing skyward thanks to the planet's huge collection of moons. The three other moons orbit in the prograde - or the same direction as the planet.
Seventeen of the newly detected Saturnian moons are orbiting in the opposite direction of the planet's rotation. Saturn's moons are named for mythological giants, and which mythology depends on which group the moon belongs to. Sheppard said Jupiter was the planet with most known moons since the late 1990s, according to BBC News.
Shedding more light on the size of the moons, astronomers explained that each is about 3 miles of five kilometers in diameter. This motion is known as a retrograde orbit, and the fact that many of them appear to be grouped up suggests that their origins are linked to collisions between larger objects in Saturn's orbit, possibly between ancient Saturn moons or impacts between the moon and other objects, like asteroids.
Of the 20 new moons, 17 are orbiting the moon "backwards", that is, in a direction opposite to the planet's motion.
The discoveries join three groups of Saturn's outer moons, clustered by the angles at which they orbit the planet. Decades later, with better telescopes, Christian Huygens and Giovanni Domenico Cassini observed Saturn's moons. Numerous smaller moons were not discovered until the Voyager fly-by missions in the 1980s and the more recent 13-year stopover of the Cassini spacecraft in Saturn's orbit.
The rules mean two of Saturn's moons will have Canadian-inspired names - so start brushing up on your Inuit mythology. Image: Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. They're all at roughly the same distance from the planet, putting them in the Norse group of moons. The Inuit moons are likely remnants of a large moon or object that disintegrated into smaller fragments a long time ago. "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". "One of the more exciting things about these outer moons is that there's always missions going", he says. "Because these new moons are on inclined orbits far from Saturn itself, we believe these new moons were captured by Saturn just after the planet formation process".
"Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets", Sheppard said adding that "They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our Solar System's planets formed and evolved".