Astronomers discover 12 more moons orbiting Jupiter, including an 'oddball'

Theresa Obrien
July 23, 2018

Astronomers from the Carnegie Institution for Science have spotted 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the total to 79.

Researchers from the Carnegie Institute of Science have "serendipitously" stumbled upon 12 new moons of Jupiter, one was which was described as an "oddball". More than 400 years later, astronomers are still finding moons orbiting the solar system's largest planet. The work was led by Scott Sheppard, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science who studies small bodies in the solar system and the formation of planets and stars. Apparently, it's just 1 kilometer wide, which means it's the smallest moon scientists have discovered to date orbiting the planet, and it takes a full year and a half to make a complete trip around Jupiter. Two of the new moons are in a group that orbit in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation called the prograde group. Two of them have relatively close-in orbits, going in the same direction as Jupiter's spin.

Sheppard and his colleagues have proposed naming the oddball moon Valetudo, after a minor goddess and great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter. When these moons were visible, Jupiter was very close to our own bright moon, so great care was needed to ensure that the images didn't saturate from overexposure. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust."Some of Jupiter's moons and moon groupings, including the "oddball", could have formed from collisions like this, according to the statement".

Astronomers made the discoveries using the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile and the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

And he thinks Jupiter might have even more moons just as small waiting to be found. They are thought to be fragments of a previously crumbled moon.

"Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road", said Sheppard.

Tabetha Boyajian, an astrophysicist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge who is not part of the crew, called the verdict of the new moons "cool" in an email.

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Our solar system is full of moons of many different kinds, just as diverse and unbelievable as the planets they orbit.

Nine of the moons can be found in the outer swarm of Jupiter's moons. The hope is that these moons help us better understand the early days of our solar system, so we'll keep our fingers crossed for some interesting discoveries as they're researched further.

Here are the 4 largest Galilean moons of Jupiter - Callisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede, which can be easily seen from Earth.

The unfortunate reality of this moon, however, is its eventual demise, due to its irregular orbit.

These new moons probably formed in a place in our solar system known as the giant planet region, which is between the asteroid belt, dominated by rocky asteroids, and the Kuiper belt, dominated by icy comets.

These building blocks of planets can provide a window into the early years of the solar system.

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