A team discovered a haul of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing its total to 82; Jupiter, by contrast, has 79 natural satellites. Each of the newly discovered objects in orbit around Saturn is about 5km (three miles) in diameter; 17 of them orbit the planet “backwards”. The moons were discovered using the Subaru telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.
By Paul Rincon Science editor, BBC News website
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and is the second largest in our Solar System.
It is a gas giant with a prominent ring system.
A Saturnian day is 10 hours 39 mins long. A year (the period of orbit around the Sun) takes the equivalent of 29.46 Earth years.
Saturn’s atmosphere is made up of 96% hydrogen and 4% mostly helium.
There are known to be more than 53 moons, the largest being Titan, which scientists believe resembles a frozen version of what Earth was like several billion years ago.
Much of what is known about the planet is due to the US Voyager explorations in 1980-81 and much more from the later Cassini-Huygens mission of 2004 which continues to explore Saturn, its rings and its moons.
Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture, it’s astronomical symbol represents his sickle.
For more info on Saturn:
Now is a great time to see Saturn, perhaps the most beautiful planet in the night sky.
Saturn will be in opposition to the sun on Friday at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on May 23). This means that the ringed planet will be directly opposite the sun in our sky. It will rise as the sun sets in the evening, shine brightly all night long, and set as the sun rises at dawn.
If you just look at the sky on a single night, everything seems quite static. But if you watch Saturn over a period of a few weeks, for example, and note its position against the background stars, you will see that it is in constant motion.
Currently Saturn is moving with what is called “retrograde motion,” from left to right against the background stars. This is actually an optical illusion caused by the Earth’s much more rapid movement around the sun. Once the Earth is well past Saturn in early August, Saturn will appear to reverse directions and begin moving in its true direction, from right to left.
Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometres) – http://astronomynow.com/2015/01/09/scientists-pinpoint-saturn-with-exquisite-accuracy/
More about Saturn here – http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/index.cfm?SciencePageID=51