NATIONWIDE — The discovery of 20 new moons around Saturn is bringing the total number up to 82. That is three more than Jupiter.
- Saturn is 'true moon king,' says astronomer
- Some of new moons are barely three miles in diameter
- Get more space coverage here
However, Jupiter still has the biggest moon — Ganymede — which is almost half the size of Earth.
Saturn's new moons are tiny in comparison, each one barely three miles in diameter.
"It was fun to find that Saturn is the true moon king," said astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Sheppard and his team used a telescope in Hawaii to spot Saturn's 20 new moons over the summer. About 100 even tinier moons may be orbiting Saturn, still waiting to be found, he said.
Get more facts about Saturn here.
It is harder spotting mini moons around Saturn than Jupiter, Sheppard said, given how much farther Saturn is.
"So seeing that Saturn has more moons even though it is harder to find them, shows just how many moons Saturn has collected over time," he wrote in an email. These baby moons may have come from larger parent moons that broke apart right after Saturn formed.
Seventeen of Saturn's new moons orbit the planet in the opposite, or retrograde, direction. The other three circle in the same direction that Saturn rotates. They are so far from Saturn that it takes two to three years to complete a single orbit.
"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," Sheppard wrote.
Just last year, Sheppard found 12 new moons around Jupiter. The Carnegie Institution had a moon-naming contest for them; another is planned now for Saturn's new moons.