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Scientists find 20 new moons around Saturn — and you can name them

An image provided by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon Titan passing in front of the giant planet in an image made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
An image provided by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon Titan passing in front of the giant planet in an image made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. AP Photo/NASA

Astronomers have launched a contest to name 20 newly discovered moons around Saturn — and the suggestions are already getting loony.

Moony McMoonFace. Picard. Thanos. Beyoncé.

These are just some of the monikers being proposed on social media after astronomer Scott Sheppard announced the moons and the contest through the Carnegie Institution of Science on Monday.

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Sheppard and his team discovered the moons over the summer using a powerful telescope in Hawaii. And even with the recent discoveries, Sheppard says there could be even smaller objects orbiting Saturn that remain undetected.

Saturn now has 82 known moons — or slightly more than Jupiter, which has 79.

“It was fun to find that Saturn is the true moon king,” Sheppard told the Associated Press. He added that the newly discovered moons are only about 5 km in diameter. That means they’re wide enough to walk across in under an hour.

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“These moons are the remnants of the objects that helped form the planets, so by studying them, we are learning about what the planets formed from,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard is soliciting suggestions for the names on Twitter with the account @SaturnLunacy. And people have a lot of ideas.

“Name all those new Saturn moons after the Avengers,” user @twistedSouffle tweeted on Wednesday.

“Oh please can someone for the entirety of the U.K. call a moon “Moony McMoon Face,” @teealeeaf wrote, in one of several tweets demanding the name.

Several others suggested naming the moons after members of the Korean pop band BTS.

The naming contest runs until Dec. 6, although there are a few rules that will surely disappoint the Moony McMoonFace shippers. The names must not be used by another planetary body, and they must be related to mythological giants from Inuit, Gallic or Norse mythology.

Seventeen of the moons will have Norse names, two will have Inuit names and one will have a Gallic name, according to the contest page.

“Tweet your suggested moon name to @SaturnLunacy and tell us why you picked it,” the contest page says. “Photos, artwork, and videos are strongly encouraged. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons.”

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Sheppard and his team ran a similar contest earlier this year to name five newly discovered moons around Jupiter.

“The submissions ranged from the scholarly to the silly, including some inevitable Moony McMoonFaces and a surprisingly large number of people who felt strongly about naming the moons after a beloved pet,” scientists wrote in a blog post last August.

They ultimately chose five names related to Zeus, the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Jupiter. Three moons were named after Zeus’ daughters Pandia, Ersa and Eirene. The others were named after Zeus’ granddaughters Philophrosyne and Euphreme.

The rules mean two of Saturn’s moons will have Canadian-inspired names — so start brushing up on your Inuit mythology.

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