Now 79: Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons of Jupiter


Of those, 11 are normal moons while the remaining one is an "oddball". With the new set of discovery, Jupiter now has 79 moons, which is the most for any planet found until now.

They discovered the 12 moons, but the observation and confirmation process, using multiple telescopes, took about a year. "I'm not astonished that it is gathering more moons" she said of Jupiter, adding that "By reviewing the active history of such things, we can recognize a lot about the creation of the Solar System".

"Our other discovery is a real oddball and has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon", said Scott Sheppard, lead scientist on the project and a staff scientist at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D. C.

Two other new moons are closer and move in a prograde orbit, which is in line with the direction that Jupiter is moving.

The "oddball" planet lies in between the inner and outer circles of moons: it orbits Jupiter in prograde and takes around a year and a half to orbit Jupiter. "Valetudo" - after the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter - also known as the goddess of health and hygiene. It's believed that numerous tiny moons around Jupiter were once much larger, having broken up over time due to the stress of gravity or perhaps even collisions with each other, resulting in the smaller objects we see today. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust". These distant retrograde moons are now grouped into at least groups that are thought to be the remnants of three once-larger parent bodies that broke apart because of collisions with asteroids, comets, and other moons near Jupiter.

Sheppard told nature, Jupiter may have yet another undiscovered moon. But the newly discovered moons are tiny, ranging from 1 to 3 kilometers in diameter. They are also part of a larger group of small moons thought to be the left-over remnants of a once larger moon.

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"We were able to go a little bit fainter than anyone has been able to go in the past, and that's why we were able to find these new moons", asserted Sheppard. 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.

The same survey that discovered these 10 also resurveyed two other moons previously discovered by the researchers, who verified the moons' orbital paths.

It took the team a while to make the required observations to confirm each moon's existence.

Astronomers describe the twelfth new Jovian moon as an "oddball". What's truly freakish is that this set up prone to four moon-to-moon collisions. As so often happens, the astronomers found the moons while searching for something completely unrelated.

The discoveries were made more than a year ago, and the orbits of two of the moons were confirmed soon after they were found.

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