Sunday, 19 August, 2018


Ten newly found moons of Jupiter include a 'wrong-way driver'

Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter 12 new moons discovered around Jupiter
Kristine Garrett | 20 July, 2018, 14:55

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. Because of that small moon's orbit, it may be eventually be destined for an crash. This is in contrast to other Jupiter moons such as Ganymede - the biggest in the solar system with a diameter of 5,268km. It affects the ocean's tides and, more importantly, also helps us understand how to eat a Jaffa Cake.

Once the Blanco telescope spotted previously unidentified objects near Jupiter, the research team used other telescopes to follow up on these moon candidates and confirm that they were orbiting Jupiter.

Our solar system is already teaming with almost 200 moons, and we just got 12 more to add to the list. And now, 12 new moons of Jupiter including the weirdest one yet.

The newly discovered "oddball" moon has a prograde orbit, but it orbits farther from Jupiter than the other moons in the larger prograde group and it takes about one and a half Earth years to complete an orbit.

According to Horner, if Valetudo had formed early on, it would have been slowed by the gas and dust present at the formation of Jupiter, and fallen into the planet. These regular satellites consist of an inner group of four moons that orbit very closely to the planet and a main group of four Galilean moons that are Jupiter's largest moons.

Valetudo is in Jupiter's distant, outer swarm of moons that circles in the opposite direction of the planet's rotation. It is more distant (for good reason!), more inclined, takes longer to orbit Jupiter than its siblings, and crosses the outer retrograde moons.

Three groupings of Jupiter's moons with a dozen newly discovered ones shown in bold. Two of the 12, on the other hand, are found in a closer group that orbits Jupiter in prograde, which is the same direction of the planet's rotation. Further out, there are nine moons that are spinning in the opposite direction.

Tabetha Boyajian, an astrophysicist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge who is not part of the crew, called the verdict of the new moons "cool" in an email. These moons orbit in a clockwise direction, in the view above.

Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter

Once they finish running and analyzing the simulations, the team plans to publish the results in early 2019.

It now has the largest amount of known moons around a planet in the solar system, but there's something very peculiar about one of the recently discovered Jovian satellites.

"It's also likely Jupiter's smallest known moon, being less than one kilometer (0.6 mile) in diameter".

The tiny moon is likely to be named Valetudo after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter, the goddess of health and hygiene. It has a prograde orbit at a distance where the rest of Jupiter's moons have retrograde orbits.

Some have wondered if perhaps that shouldn't count as a moon.

"We're looking for new possible planets and dwarf planets in our solar system, just seeing what is out there", Sheppard said.

"We think there were originally only three retrograde moons and they were each broken apart through collisions with other objects".

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