Astronomers Find a Staggering 12 New Moons Orbiting Jupiter

Astronomers find 12 new moons around Jupiter

Which direction the moons swing around the planet depends on how they were first captured by Jupiter's gravitational field.

"This is really cool and really exciting", astronomer Jonti Horner of the University of Southern Queensland, who was not involved in the research, told ScienceAlert. Just like that, Jupiter has 12 new moons., all of which have been confirmed by other telescopes.

Team leader Dr Scott Sheppard said: 'It's a real oddball.

The 12th moon is being called an oddball because, while it orbits in the same direction as Jupiter's spin, it is much farther away than the others orbiting in that direction and it is comparatively tiny.

Two of the new moons are part of an inner group of moons closer to Jupiter that orbit in prograde, or the same direction as the planet's rotation.

The Blanco 4-meter telescope Sheppard was using is uniquely suited to spotting potential new moons both because the camera installed on it can photograph a huge area of sky at once and because it's particularly good at blocking stray light from bright objects nearby - say, Jupiter - that might wash out fainter ones.

Astronomers have announced the discovery of 10 more moons of Jupiter, including one "oddball" that appears destined to crash into other satellites sharing its orbital highway. It moved in the prograde motion together with Jupiter and then collided with another object, causing the smaller retrograde-moving moons.

Most of the prograde moons orbit much closer to the planet than the retrograde moons do. Those eleven moons are probably remnants of larger bodies that got broken up in collisions.

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Our solar system's oldest and biggest planet, Jupiter, has many moons.

This image shows the different groupings of moons orbiting Jupiter, with the newly discovered moons displayed in bold.

Galileo detected Jupiter's four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in 1610. Its path weaving within the retrograde moons is unstable, they add; a collision, at some point, is likely. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust". At the same time, they watched for Planet Nine or smaller, distant dwarf planets in the background.

A greater number of irregular moons because it tells us about a time during Jupiter's formation when the planet was still growing. Sheppard's team speculates Valetudo could be a remnant of a collision between one or more moons. Valetudo is the name of Jupiter's great-granddaughter and a Roman goddess of health and hygiene, so it fits the bill.

Based on the team's observations, Gareth Williams at the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center was able to calculate the orbits of the moons. "They also are fragments of the early solar system before the planets were formed, which makes studying them important to learning about the solar system's history". When Jupiter and the other giant planets were forming, the solar system was a disk and gas and dust that surrounded the infant Sun.

During its full opposition the planet was brightest in Britain on May between 9:30pm and 4:30am BST while in the USA it peaked on May 9 between 1:10am and 6:20am ET.

The twelve moons have been broadly clustered into three groups.

But one of the newly discovered moons - and the strangest - offers a fresh clue.


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