Saturn now has 82 moons - three more than Jupiter's 79 moons - and each of the 20 newly-discovered Saturn moons is about five kms in diameter.
A team led by Scott S Sheppard from Carnegie Institute of Science found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn. Seventeen of them orbit the planet backwards, or in a retrograde direction, meaning their movement is opposite of the planet's rotation around its axis.
The other three moons orbit in the prograde -- the same direction as Saturn rotates.
Two of the prograde moons are closer to the planet and take about two years to travel once around Saturn.
The more-distant retrograde moons and one of the prograde moons each take more than three years to complete an orbit.
"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.
The new moons were discovered using the Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The observing team included Sheppard, David Jewitt of University of California Los Angeles and Jan Kleyna of the University of Hawaii.
These moons may have once comprised a larger moon that was broken apart in the distant past.
"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," Sheppard noted.
The "retrograde" moons have similar inclinations to other previously known retrograde Saturnian moons, indicating that they are also likely fragments from a once-larger parent moon that was broken apart.
"This kind of grouping of outer moons is also seen around Jupiter, indicating violent collisions occurred between moons in the Saturnian system or with outside objects such as passing asteroids or comets," explained Sheppard.
Last year, Sheppard discovered 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter and Carnegie hosted an online contest to name five of them.
"This time, the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic, or Inuit mythology," said Sheppard.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.