New Moons Discovered for Jupiter, Including One 'Oddball'

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Astronomers looking for stuff in the outer Solar System have received a huge and unexpected surprise - the accidental discovery of 12 previously unknown moons in orbit around Jupiter.

The astronomers think Valetudo could be the last-remaining remnant of a once-larger prograde-orbiting moon that formed some of the retrograde moon groupings during past head-on collisions. Next out are the four large Galilean moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - that are easily visible from Earth, even with binoculars or a small telescope. Of the 12 latest moons to join Jupiter's family, it's a maverick whose odd orbit may give astronomers crucial insights to understanding how the moons of Jupiter came to be.

Which could explain the theory that this wee moon is the final dregs of a once-larger prograde-orbiting satellite, corroded over time by bumps and scrapes with other celestial bodies.

The orbits of the twelve newly discovered moons of Jupiter are shown here in bold. Though scientists have been looking for this unseen world called Planet X or Planet Nine for years, it has led to the discovery of many new moons inside our Solar System.

All less than two miles wide, the moons are all very small which is why they have only now been identified thanks to more sensitive telescopes. Nine objects, which are in three different groups, are likely the remnants of larger moons that broke apart during collisions.

These two moons are most likely to be pieces of a once larger moon that was broken up in orbit, they take almost a year to complete a lap around Jupiter.

Nine of the new moons are part of a distant swarm of moons that orbit Jupiter in the opposite direction of its spin rotation. These moons take about two years to orbit Jupiter.

The current team of astronomers did not set out to find new moons of Jupiter, but was scanning the skies for planets beyond Pluto when the moons fell into the path of their telescope.

But one of the newly discovered moons - and the strangest - offers a fresh clue. The 7 new retrograde moons join 45 other satellites that take 2-3 years to orbit.

Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter
Jupiter has a dozen new moons, including one 'oddball'

This means, unlike those closer to Jupiter, it crosses the outer retrograde moons.

It behaves slightly differently to the 11 other moons - so much so, in fact, that experts reckon it might be responsible for having smashed up some of the other floating objects that form the moons orbiting Jupiter.

While researchers aren't certain if this is exactly what happened, understanding how and when Jupiter's moons formed could help scientists to better understand the early solar system as a whole, the statement said. "Head-on collisions are likely to happen in that situation".

The tiny moon is likely to be named Valetudo after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter, the goddess of health and hygiene.

The team first observed the new moons in 2017 with the 4-meter Blanco telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

In was in March 2017 that the team in the U.S. first sported the moons from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

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

Over the weeks following full opposition, Jupiter will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, appearing as a bright, star-like object. We're not just talking about one or two stragglers, either. Jupiter has the most moons of any other planet.

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