WASHINGTON — At least two new moons--and perhaps two others--have been discovered in the orbit of Saturn, the ringed planet that already was known to have 18 natural satellites large enough to be called moons.
Astronomers Amanda S. Bosh of the Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Ariz., and Andrew S. Rivkin of the University of Arizona announced Thursday that they spotted the new moons in Saturn photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Bosh said the photos were snapped May 22 during a rare time that Saturn's dust rings were seen edge-on, a celestial event known as the Earth ring crossing. During this time, the bright reflected light from the rings is dimmed and independent moons can more easily be sighted.
Two of the moons in the photos may be previously discovered bodies known as Atlas and Prometheus. Those moons were discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in 1980, but the latest sighting was in a slightly different location than where the moons were thought to be, based on the Voyager findings.