Twelve more moons of Saturn discovered

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Wednesday, May 4, 2005 Astronomers at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy today announced their discovery of twelve further moons of Saturn, bringing the total number of moons discovered so far to 46. The initial discovery of the satellites was on December 12, 2004, and was made using the 8.2 metre Subaru telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatory. Confirmational observations were then conducted throughout January, February, and March from the Subaru telescope and from the Gemini North telescope.

Similar teams at the university led by David Jewitt discovered 11 moons of Jupiter in 2001, and a further 11 in 2002, before turning their attentions to Saturn.

11 of the newly discovered moons are in retrograde orbits, leading astronomers to hypothesize that they were originally asteroids, attracted out of the asteroid belt by Jupiter's gravity and then captured by Saturn. All of the moons are in inclined elliptical orbits, that range from 16 million to 22 million kilometres in distance from Saturn. As a point of reference, Earth's moon is an average of 384,403 kilometres from the Earth. The new moons of Saturn are provisionally named S/2004 S07 through to S/2004 S18.

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