Ever wondered about all the different moons surrounding nearby planets?
Our solar system is home to 8 major planets (sorry Pluto, we’re still hurting too) but that’s not all. The vast majority of these celestial bodies have their own moons as well. That’s right, we’re not special. Sure, we named our moon, The Moon, but that term simply means an object that is in permanent orbit around a planet.
That’s right. We’re not special. In fact, we’re relatively unusual in the fact that we have only 1 moon. So, in order to put ourselves in our place, let’s have a look at each planet and see what their moons have to say for themselves.
That’s right, this is going to be in a logical order or distance from the sun.
Mercury has no moons. Sadly Mercury is just too close to the sun to be able to hold a moon. Sad times for Mercury.
Once again, no moons. We’re starting to not believe that Earth actually isn’t special at this point.
It is believed that Venus did, once, have a moon but that it collided either into Venus itself or a passing body.
1 moon. Also known, somewhat arrogantly, as The Moon. Previously thought to be home to The Man in The Moon and often referred to as being made of cheese. Thankfully these — frankly horrifying — concepts have been debunked. We’re all hoping Mr. Musk and NASA gang up soon and get mankind back onto the surface ASAP.
2 moons! Deimos and Phobos. Theorized amongst astronomers as potentially just being slightly larger asteroids that got caught up on Mars’ gravitational force.
Ok, now we’re talking. As we get into the first of the gas giants the number of moons begins to dramatically increase. Jupiter has at least 79 moons! That is quite the flex on those smaller planets within the asteroid belt!
For the purpose of this piece we won’t list every single moon, rather focus on the big 4 which are visible with the naked eye under dark sky conditions. The big 4 are Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. Because of their relatively larger size, these 4 have been considered by terraforming theorists as potential settlement bases.
Slightly less than Jupiter but still a huge number of moons, Saturn has 62 moons in orbit. Once again, there are 4 moons visible to the naked eye. Titan, Rhea, Iapetus, and Dione.
Special mention goes to the relatively newly photographed Mimas. Mimas is an especially brilliant moon because it has a giant impact crater (called Herschel) on its northern hemisphere which makes it look exactly like the Deathstar from Star Wars. This was first spotted by Cassini back in 2010, and likely gave the observers something of a shock.
27 moons here for Uranus. Obvious moon-ing jokes aside, there are 4 noticeably larger moons as with the other gas giants, but these aren’t visible to the naked eye. You’ll need at least an 8-10 inch telescope to see them. Titania , Oberon, Umbriel and Ariel are the largest. Another 4 bodies that have been considered for terraforming.
The number reduces again, seemingly in conjunction with the further we get from the Sun, as Neptune rings in only 14 moons. Triton is the only moon of note, which is actually large enough to be considered a dwarf planet. In fact, astronomers believe it may have been captured after ejection from the Kuiper Belt.
Bonus – Pluto
Ok, we still feel bad, so Pluto makes the list. Even if we didn’t feel bad, there’s some merit to adding in Pluto, a dwarf planet stripped of its place in our Solar System, as it has not 1, not 2 but 5 moons! Sure, they’re so small and far away that they can’t be seen using any amateur telescope but that’s still impressive. One of the moons, Charon, is actually considered a dwarf planet itself and part of Pluto’s binary system… which calls into question – is Charon Pluto’s moon, or is Pluto Charon’s moon? The plot thickens…
…we still heart you, Pluto.