Saturn has 62 moons traveling on verified orbits, but only 53 have official names. Thirteen of these moons have diameters of more than 31 miles, thick rings, and very complex orbital motions. Saturn’s moons range in size, from small moonlets less than a mile in diameter to big ones that are larger than planets like Mercury. 24 of these moons are categorized as regular satellites since they have prograde orbits. The remainder, except Phoebe, are small, irregular and orbit furthest from Saturn. Saturn’s most documented moons are Titan, Enceladus and Rhea, which are very large in size and may have liquid water.
Examples of Saturn's Largest Moons
Titan (Saturn VI)
Titan is the largest of Saturn’s moon. It has a diameter of 3,201 miles in diameter and a dense atmosphere with evidence of surface liquid. Commonly described as a planet-like moon, it is 50% larger than Earth’s moon and larger than Mercury. Observations reveal Titan makes a complete orbit every 15 days and 22 hours, and if one was standing on Titan’s surface Saturn becomes observables at an angle of 5.09°. The surface is smooth but some areas have mountains and craters. Titan is tidally locked in a synchronous rotation with Saturn, thus constantly showing one side. NASA estimates Titan’s orbital eccentricity to be 0.0288, with an orbital plane incline of 0.348° to the Saturnian equator. Like Earth, Titan has wind, rain, and features like dunes, lakes, deltas, and rivers, as well as observable weather patterns. Scientists found well-defined liquid methane lakes, such as Kraken Mare and Ligeia Mare, as well as geysers on the moon’s north pole. Furthermore, the atmosphere has high levels of nitrogen, methane, and hydrogen, together with significant amounts of other hydrocarbons. Though receiving only 0.1% of the sunlight that Earth receives, Titan’s atmospheric methane creates a greenhouse effect that keeps it warm. This moon is observable through small telescopes or strong binoculars.
Dione (Saturn IV)
Dione orbits Saturn with a semimajor axis approximately 2% less than that of Earth’s moon, but has an orbital period that is one tenth the length of Earth’s moon. This moon maintains an eccentricity of 0.0022 and has two co-orbital trojan moons, Helene and Polydeuces. These trojan moons are 60° ahead of and behind Dione, respectively. With a diameter of 697 miles, two-thirds of Dione’s mass is water ice and the remaining area is believed to be made up of silicate rock. On the surface, Dione is bright and dotted with Craters, Catenae, Fossae, Dorsa and Chasmata. The surface is also icy and a contains a possible internal liquid ocean.
Enceladus (Saturn II)
Enceladus is about 310 miles in diameter and has a range of surface features like craters and distinct terrains. With a surface covered by rock and ice, this moon is one of the most reflective bodies in the solar system. Scientists describe Enceladus' shape as scalene ellipsoid, orbiting 147886.344 miles from Saturn’s center and 111846.82 miles from its clouds. The moon makes a complete round every 32.9 hours, thus making it observable throughout the night. At an orbital eccentricity of 0.0047, Enceladus orbits within Saturn’s E ring and replenishes the ring’s content, and it also rotates synchronously with its orbital period, keeping a single side facing Saturn. There is evidence of liquid water from underground salty water deposits (approximately 6 miles thick) and geysers near the south pole.
Names of Saturn’s Moons
Saturn’s moons have names of figures related to Saturn, a Roman god of agriculture and harvest, as well as characters of Greco-Roman mythology or giants from other mythologies. John Herschel proposed the names in 1847 and the use of additional Greco-Roman names began in the twentieth century.
How Many Moons Does Saturn Have?
Saturn has 62 moons traveling on verified orbits, but only 53 have official names. Thirteen of these moons have diameters of more than 31 miles, thick rings, and very complex orbital motions.
The Moons of Saturn Ranked by Length of Orbital Period
|Rank||The Moons of Saturn|
|1||S/2009 S 1|
|31||S/2007 S 2|
|37||S/2004 S 13|
|43||S/2006 S 1|
|44||S/2004 S 17|
|49||S/2004 S 12|
|53||S/2007 S 3|
|55||S/2004 S 7|
|56||S/2006 S 3|
About the Author
Mark is a student at Maseno University and community commentator in Kenya. Mark also has interests in geography, African history, and international development.
Your MLA Citation
Your APA Citation
Your Chicago Citation
Your Harvard CitationRemember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation.