A team of astronomers has announced the discovery of 62 new moons orbiting Saturn, returning it to first place in the Solar System’s “moon race.”
The new discoveries mean that Saturn has not only reclaimed its crown for having the most known moons (surpassing Jupiter with 95 moons), but is also the first planet to have more than 100 moons discovered.
Over the past two decades, Saturn’s surroundings have been repeatedly surveyed for moons with increasing sensitivity.
In this latest study, the team including Edaward Ashton, a postdoctoral fellow at the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan, used a technique known as ‘shifting and stacking’ to find fainter (and therefore weaker) Saturnian moons. little). The method has been used for lunar searches around Neptune and Uranus, but never for Saturn.
Changing a set of sequential images at the speed at which the moon moves across the sky results in an enhancement of the signal when all the data is combined, allowing moons that were too faint to see in individual images to be become visible in the stacked image, the University of British Columbia, where Ashton began the study, explains in a statement.
The team used data taken with the Canada, France, Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, between 2019 and 2021. By shifting and stacking many sequential images taken over three-hour periods, they were able to detect moons orbiting Saturn up to about 2.5 kilometers in diameter.
The team led by Ashton includes UBC Professor Dr. Brett Gladman, Dr. Mike Alexandersen (Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Dr. Jean-Marc Petit (Besancon Observatory) and Matthew Beaudoin (UBC).