Do you know how many moons are in our solar system? Or, which planet has the largest moon? There are hundreds of moons orbiting the planets in our solar system, with some asteroids even holding moons in their orbit.
What is a Moon?
Because of this, moons are called “natural satellites,” However, a natural satellite can also be a more general term to include anything orbiting another body in space; for example, Earth orbiting the Sun. The term “moon” is exclusively used to distinguish a planet’s natural satellite.
How many moons are in the solar system?
Approximately 168 moons are orbiting the six planets in our solar system and hundreds more orbiting dwarf planets and asteroids. As technology improves, and we expand our exploration further into space, astronomers will continue to discover new moons, particularly when we look to the outer planets.
Some planets, like Earth, only have one moon, while others such as Jupiter and Saturn have over 60 moons each! And, then there are some lonely planets which don’t have any moons at all. Let’s dive into a brief introduction about the moons in our solar system.
Earth’s Moon, also known as “Luna,” orbits our planet and is the only other place humans have stepped foot on in space. The Moon plays a pivotal role in life on Earth; moderating the temperature of our planet and influencing the tides due to its gravitational pull.
The Moon is believed to have formed 4.5 billion years ago after a large celestial body collided with Earth, throwing debris into space. This debris collected, bound together by gravity, and eventually formed the Moon. While this is the most popular theory, understanding exactly how our Moon was created is still up for debate. To learn more, try LUNAR, an interactive learning experience which combines a realistic 3D printed model of Earth’s Moon and cutting-edge AR technology.
Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Both moons are considerably smaller and closer to the planet than Earth’s moon. They also differ from Earth’s moon in shape and color, exhibiting a much darker surface and less rounded appearance.
Phobos is also slowly getting closer to Mars. Astronomers believe that in a few ten thousand years it could either collide with the planet or be forced apart by gravity to form a ring around the planet.
As far as astronomers know, Jupiter has 79 Moons, although only 53 of these are named. Jupiter’s main Moons are Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. Labeled the Galilean satellites, Jupiter’s largest moons were first discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer. All of these moons can all be found in our Ultimate Solar System Set.
Saturn has 53 confirmed moons (named), with another nine provisional moons awaiting clarification. But, this doesn’t include the large pieces of rock and ice in Saturn’s rings! Saturn’s main moon, Titus, is also extremely unusual, as it’s the only moon with a thick atmosphere.
Uranus has 27 moons, the largest being Oberon and Titania, which were first discovered in the 1700’s. The inner moons of Uranus are mostly made up of ice and rock, while the moons orbiting the outside of Oberon are still yet to be confirmed, although it is believed they are asteroids. Uranus’ moons are unique due to the fact they are named after Shakespearean characters, instead of ancient mythologies.
Neptune has 13 moons in its orbit. Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is approximately 1600 miles in diameter and roughly the size of Pluto. Interestingly, Triton is also the only large moon in our solar system with a retrograde orbit, meaning the moon orbits in the opposite direction to the rotation of the planet.
Planets without any Moons (Mercury and Venus)
Finally, we get to Mercury and Venus, which are the only two major planets without any moons! Mercury is too close to the Sun to have a moon. The Sun’s gravitational pull would overpower any natural satellites of Mercury, making it impossible for the planet to hold anything in its orbit. On the other hand, Venus may have had a moon at one point, although astronomers believe this crashed into the planet billions of years ago.
What is the largest moon in the Solar System?
Though Earth’s moon is undoubtedly the most well-known, it’s actually the fifth largest in our solar system. Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede, tops the list as the largest moon in the solar system with a diameter of over 3200 miles. With mountains, valleys, and craters, Ganymede is larger than Mercury and the only known moon to have its own magnetic field.
Which Planet has the Most Moons?
One reason why Jupiter has so many moons is due to the sheer size of the planet. At over 88,000 miles in diameter across its equator, Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and has a strong gravitational field which influences large bodies of space. To put this into perspective, Earth would fit inside Jupiter 1,300 times!
Jupiter also sits on the outer region of our solar system over 480 million miles from the sun and close to the asteroid belt. Due to its position near the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter has captured many smaller objects in its orbit.
Want to learn more?
AstroReality’s Solar System Ultimate Set includes 3D models of 18 different planets and moons. Using advanced augmented reality (AR) technology, you can learn about each moon in amazing detail and discover new facts on:
With a unique and interactive learning experience, our 3D models of moons open up a world of possibilities. Explore the moons of the solar system in the palm of your hand.