A dozen new moons of Jupiter discovered, including one 'oddball'

12 new jupiter moons

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.

The moon orbits in the prograde direction, but at a greater distance from Jupiter with an orbital period of about a year and a half.

Telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona were used for the latest discovery and confirmation. Just like that, Jupiter has 12 new moons., all of which have been confirmed by other telescopes. The newly discovered retrograde moons take about two years to orbit Jupiter.

Astronomers Just Announced The Discovery of 12 New Moons Around Jupiter

"Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road", said Sheppard. "We could choose our field of observation to be very close to Jupiter, so we could look for things moving at Jupiter's rate-foreground objects, moving quite fast", while still on the hunt for relatively slower-moving objects in the fringes of the solar system, Sheppard says.

Two of the newly discovered satellites orbit with a group that are in between the outer group and the Galilean moons. "It's also likely Jupiter's smallest-known moon, being less than 1km (0.6 of a mile) in diameter". Two other moons orbit much closer to Jupiter in a group of inner prograde moons, which orbit in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation, taking about one Earth year to make an orbit. Apparently the many objects circling the planet probably came about from collisions earlier in its life, having since been captured by Jupiter.

Sheppard did not set out to detect new moons. Researchers have proposed naming the "oddball" Valetudo, after the Roman goddess of health and hygiene. Though it has a prograde orbit, it lives among a group of retrograde moons, meaning it careens across their orbits every once in awhile. Those retrograde moons are then further grouped into three distinct sections. In fact, of Jupiter's 67 previously discovered moons, the 33 outermost moons all have retrograde orbits.

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"Our other discovery is a real oddball and has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon", Dr Sheppard explained. Given a provisional name Valetudo (the great-granddaughter of Jupiter in mythology), it orbits prograde, but is also so far from Jupiter that its orbit is solidly among the retrograde moons! These moons orbit in a counter-clockwise direction in the view above.

This isn't likely to be the last new moons that we hear about coming from the gas giant, and astronomers believe there are still plenty smaller satellites that remain undetected. They are thought to be the remnants of larger parent bodies that broke apart as a result of a collision with other bodies like asteroids, comets or other moons. For the other 11 moons, Sheppard said they might let the public help out.

These building blocks of planets can provide a window into the early years of the solar system. It's known as Planet Nine or Planet X.

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"If we do find this planet in the next few years, it would be a pretty unbelievable discovery for astronomy".

The team's results are not yet available in a peer-reviewed journal, as Sheppard's team is now running supercomputer simulations to try and figure out how often Valetudo might collide with a retrograde moon.

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