Research, Technology

60 new satellites of Saturn discovered - no one knew about their existence

Which planet in the solar system has the mostsatellites? Some time ago, Jupiter had the largest number of natural satellites - according to data for February 2023, it has 95 of them. However, recently he had to give up his place in the ranking of Saturn, because the giant with a huge ring discovered 62 new satellites, and now their total number is 145 pieces. Until now, no one knew about their existence, because they are so small that they are not visible next to the gas giant constantly illuminated by sunlight. To find them, scientists had to use an experimental method for three years, which unexpectedly turned out to be effective.

Saturn became the planet with the largest number of natural satellites

Exploring the moons of Saturn and Jupiter

Saturn and Jupiter have many natural satellites. The largest of them are already familiar to you.

Known satellites of Saturn are Titan with a radius of 2.5 kilometers, Mimas with a 198-kilometer radius and Enceladus - it is believed that due to the abundance of gases life can exist on it.

The surface of Enceladus, the mysterious moon of Saturn

The most famous moons of Jupiter:Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Io. A lot of interesting things can be said about these objects too. For example, in one of the articles, my colleague Lyubov Sokovikova shared a very interesting fact and explained it - Jupiter's moon Europa glows in the dark. And in 2019, strange activity was noticed on the Io satellite - it never ceases to amaze scientists even 400 years after its discovery.

Io is a moon of Jupiter that intrigues with strange activity on the surface

Perhaps Saturn and Jupiter have much moresatellites, but they are difficult to detect. The fact is that these two planets are the largest in the solar system. They are constantly illuminated by sunlight and are clearly visible in the sky. Being very bright, they greatly outshine everything around them, so it becomes extremely difficult to detect tiny satellites by cosmic standards.

See also: JUICE launched into space to search for life on Jupiter's moons

What objects can be considered satellites

Before explaining how scientists were able to find 62new satellite of Saturn, you need to understand - what is a satellite in general? Scientists have a wide range of criteria for identifying satellites. Surprisingly, astronomers do not care about the size, shape, mass and chemical composition of a space object. A satellite can be round, oval, made of metals, and so on - it doesn't matter. Most importantly, it must have a defined trajectory around a larger object that is not a star. Thus, it turns out that even dwarf planets and asteroids can have their own satellite.

See also: Hot springs discovered under the ice of Saturn's moon?

New moons of Saturn

New satellites of Saturn were discovered thanks toan experimental search method that unexpectedly turned out to be working. From 2019 to 2021, the authors of the scientific work observed the space around Saturn with a frequency of three hours. On the pictures taken, they found traces of potential satellites - by overlaying photographs in layers, they managed to make these satellites more visible and calculate the trajectory of their movement.

Orbital trajectories of four recently discovered satellites of Saturn

Thanks to this method, scientists were able to find 63satellite - one of them was reported in 2021, so now there are 62 satellites in the news. All of them have a diameter of no more than 2.5 kilometers, which is very small - we can say that they are smaller than asteroids. The new satellites belong to the Inuit, Gallic and Scandinavian groups. This means that they revolve around the gas giant in elliptical orbits and are slightly inclined relative to all other satellites. Objects from the Scandinavian group are interesting because they move in the opposite direction of Saturn's rotation.

Saturn has beaten Jupiter's record, but in the future there may be a planet that will take away its leading place

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Scientists are constantly learning something about Saturninteresting. Recently, they discovered new satellites in it, and even earlier, mysterious spots were noticed on its rings. They appear only at certain times of the year - the time of their appearance, astronomers call the "season of the spokes." In a recent study, it was found that the spots on the rings appear before the equinox and gradually disappear before the solstice. Thanks to photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have been able to put forward several assumptions about the cause of the formation of these spots - you can find out about them in the article "Mysterious spots appear on the rings of Saturn - scientists do not know what they are."