Saturn and moons Rhea and Dione taken by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/NASA/JPL/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images). Copyright: Time & Life Pictures
Artist's concepts of the Saturnian ring–moon system
The moons of Saturn are numerous and diverse, ranging from tiny moonlets less than 1 kilometre across, to the enormous Titan , which is larger than the planet Mercury . Saturn has 62 moons with confirmed orbits, fifty-three of which have names, and only thirteen of which have diameters larger than 50 kilometres. Saturn has seven moons that are large enough to be ellipsoidal due to having planetary mass , as well as dense rings with complex orbital motions of their own. Particularly noteable among Saturn's moons are Titan, the second largest moon in the Solar System, with a nitrogen-rich Earth-like atmosphere and a landscape including hydrocarbon lakes and dry river networks, and Enceladus , which emits jets of gas and dust and may harbour liquid water under its south pole region.
Twenty-four of Saturn's moons are regular satellites ; they have prograde orbits not greatly inclined to Saturn's equatorial plane. They include the seven major satellites, four small moons which exist in a Trojan orbit with larger moons, two mutually co-orbital moons and two moons which act as shepherds of Saturn's F Ring . Two other known regular satellites orbit within gaps in Saturn's rings. The relatively large Hyperion is locked in a resonance with Titan. The remaining regular moons orbit near the outer edge of the A Ring , within G Ring and between the major moons Mimas and Enceladus. The regular satellites are traditionally named after Titans and Titanesses or other figures associated with the mythological Saturn .
The remaining thirty-eight, all small except one, are irregular satellites , whose orbits are much farther from Saturn, have high inclinations, and are mixed between prograde and retrograde . These moons are probably captured minor planets , or debris from the breakup of such bodies after they were captured, creating collisional families . The irregular satellites have been classified by their orbital characteristics into the Inuit , Norse , and Gallic groups, and their names are chosen from the corresponding mythologies. The largest of the irregular moons is Phoebe , the ninth moon of Saturn, and was discovered at the end of the 19th century.
The rings of Saturn are made up of objects ranging in size from microscopic to hundreds of metres, each of which is on its own orbit about the planet. Thus a precise number of Saturnian moons cannot be given, as there is no objective boundary between the countless small anonymous objects that form Saturn's ring system and the larger objects that have been named as moons. At least 150 moonlets embedded in the rings have been detected by the disturbance they create in the surrounding ring material, though this is thought to be only a small sample of the total population of such objects.
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