Twenty new moons have been found to be orbiting Saturn — and scientists want the public's help in naming them, according to a Carnegie Institution for Science news release. The new discovery brings the total moons around the "jewel of our solar system" to 82.
The new moons are each about 3 miles in diameter and 17 orbit Saturn backwards, or in the opposite direction the planet rotates around its own axis, according to the release. This movement is known as a retrograde direction. The three other moons orbit in the prograde — or the same direction as the planet.
The majority of the moons take over three years to complete an orbit around the gas giant, while two of the prograde moons, which are located closer to the planet, circle around it in just about two years.
"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," institution's staff scientist Scott S. Sheppard said, according to the release.
The 20 new moons were seen utilizing the Subaru telescope located on Hawaii's Mauna Kea by a team led by Sheppard.
"Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets," said Sheppard. "They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our Solar System's planets formed and evolved."
Sheppard is no stranger to discovering natural satellites — he found 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter in 2018. The Carnegie Institution for Science held a contest to name five of them and are doing the same this year, but for all 20 moons.
"I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we've decided to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons," Sheppard said. "This time, the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic or Inuit mythology."
The contest launched Monday and ends December 6. Those with ideas are instructed to tweet their suggested name to @SaturnLunacy on Twitter and explain why they chose the moniker.