Jupiter has edged ahead of Saturn in the seemingly ongoing title fight for having the most moons in the Solar System.
Twelve recently discovered moons have been published by the International Astronomical Union, bringing the total number orbiting the massive planet to 92.
Among the new discoveries, fewer than half are at least eight kilometres in diameter and nine are among the outermost moons in orbit – taking just shy of an Earth year to orbit their parent planet.
Many of the small moons are likely to have formed after collisions between much larger objects.
Earth’s own moon is believed to be one such example, with a common hypothesis that a clash between our planet and another large object likely led to debris coalescing into our lunar neighbour.
Don’t count Saturn out just yet
The observations published by the Minor Planet Centre, may be the first of many, according to Scott Sheppard from Carnegie Institute of Science, an accomplished discoverer of objects in the solar system.
That may see Jupiter squeezed out of top spot again.
Saturn currently has 83 confirmed natural satellites, but also has a substantial number of objects in proximity which are yet to be formally tracked. Research published in 2021 identified 120 objects believed to be ‘irregular moons’, of diameters around three kilometres moving around the planet.
If tracked and verified formally as moons, these would hand the title back to Saturn, at least giving fans of the Solar System’s second-largest planet something to crow about.
Originally published by Cosmos as A dozen new moons have been discovered spinning around Jupiter
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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