Scientists discover twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter

A dozen more small moons were recently discovered

"So we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our Solar System".

Sheppard told nature, Jupiter may have yet another undiscovered moon.

Sheppard and his team hope to further explore what could've caused these moons to form in order to get a better understanding of how the planet itself formed - and ultimately, more about how the rest of our galaxy came to be. Even though these are objects in our own solar system, the observations were challenging. That brings Jupiter's total tally to 79 moons, easily besting runner-up Saturn's count of 62. Because of that small moon's orbit, it may be eventually be destined for an crash.

"We're looking for new possible planets and dwarf planets in our solar system, just seeing what is out there", said Sheppard. Whether that be an exoplanet orbiting a distant star or perhaps a still-unseen planet lurking at the edge of the Solar System, it's a challenging endeavor.

None of the dozen moons is more than a couple of miles across. It also reminds me that the question of "what is out there" is always an open one to be explored."Tabetha Boyajian, an astronomer at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge who also was not part of the team, called the discovery of the new moons "cool" in an email". They named it Valetudo, after a daughter of Jupiter and the Roman goddess of hygiene and personal health.

Gareth Williams, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and director at the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, predicted that "there aren't any bigger objects undiscovered out there" around Jupiter.

Scientists made their latest discovery when they were actually looking for another extraterrestrial body - Planet X, the planet that is suspected to exist somewhere beyond Pluto.

The ninth planet is postulated to lurk far beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Which raises the question of how long the tiny moon has left. One of the finds is an oddball that moves in the opposite direction from its neighbors. They take about two years to go round the planet. Instead, its path takes it into the realm of the nine moons that orbit in the opposite direction.




Most moons, including Earth's, have prograde orbits. Of the twelve, only three moons orbit in a prograde direction, and are closer to Jupiter. In 2017, the group reported two additional Jovian moons.

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

Valetudo is something of an oddball.

Various groupings of Jovian moons with the newly discovered ones shown in bold. What's more, those orbits intersect.

The so-called "oddball" has such a unique orbit that it is at risk of smashing into the other moons - a cosmic collision that could risk wiping the space rocks out.

As such, the team took their time in confirming the new Jovian moons.

They theorize that Valetudo was a larger object, probably tens of kilometres in diameter. Sheppard said. "That is what we are trying to answer". As for how many ultimately will be found, no one knows for sure.

Surprisingly, some unknown and very faint objects appeared around the gas giant.

"What astonishes me about these moons is that they're the remnants of what the planet formed from", he said. "Most of the small objects that helped build the planets we see today were incorporated into the planets themselves, and these moons are all that remains", Sheppard wrote.

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