New Moons Discovered for Jupiter, Including One 'Oddball'

Jupiter's Moons

Some of that debris was captured as moons. According to the data, the 12 Jovian moons are divided into two main groups. The new ones were found because technology has gotten better and better over the years. 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.

It took the team a while to make the required observations to confirm each moon's existence. Confirmation came with help from a variety of observatories, including the 6.5-metre Magellan telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, the 4-metre Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona, the 2.2-metre University of Hawaii telescope and the 8-metre Subaru and Gemini Telescopes, also in Hawaii. Jupiter is not in the frame and is off to the upper left.

Before Sheppard's team conducted their survey, there were 69 known Jovian moons, but there's always been reason to believe there are quite a few more. "It's like it's going down the highway in the wrong direction".

This now brings the total number of moons around the planet to 79 - the largest number of moons of any planet within our solar system. But, the faith had other plans for the scientists and exposed 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter to them. If there's another planet orbiting the Sun way, way far out - the so-called Planet Nine - then its gravity may affect the orbits of these KBOs, allowing astronomers to figure out where this possible planet is.

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It also shows that, while we continue to gaze out into the universe for new discoveries, we are certainly not done discovering new objects, in our very own "backyard". While nine of the other moons orbit in the opposite direction, farther out in the retrograde group. Nothing against Earth's attractive Luna, but according to The Verge the number of confirmed moons around Jupiter is now up to 79, thanks to ten - or 12, depending on who's counting and how - recent confirmations by the International Astronomical Union.

"With the discovery of Valetudo, it seems the collisions that broke apart the retrograde moons were between other prograde Jupiter moons, like Valetudo", Sheppard told ScienceAlert.

As a result, head-on collisions are much more likely to occur between Valetudo and the retrograde moons, which are moving in opposite directions. To check whether this could have happened, the researchers are working on supercomputer simulations of these orbits to calculate how many times an object with Valetudo's orbit could have collided with the retrograde moons in the solar system's lifetime. That's a lot of moons.

So we are still finding moons for Jupiter. "Magnificent desolation", Sheppard says, is the ideal. "We think these moons are the last remnants of the material that formed the giant planets".

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They quickly hit the jackpot - 12 new moons appeared in the images.

Jupiter as seen from Hubble.

The observations revealed a dozen previously unknown moons circling the gas giant.

In fact, scientists suggest that this tiny moon could be the final remnant of a bigger oddball prograde moon that has been ground down to a smaller size after previous collisions. In mythology, she was the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter. Valetudo was known for being the goddess of health and hygeine.

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