Astronomers Serendipitously Discover 12 Moons Around Jupiter

23 July, 2018, 17:44 | Author: Sidney Guerrero
  • Jupiter

It happened during the search ninth planet of the Solar system.

The main task of Dr. Sheppard's team is searching for Planet Nine, a hypothesized planet far beyond Neptune that appears to be jostling objects at the edge of the solar system.

Recovery image of Valetudo from the Magellan telescope in May 2018; Jupiter is not in the field but off to the upper left.

All of the newfound bodies are small in size, as reported on the official website of the Carnegie institution.

Why are we just now hearing about it? So that's where they looked.

It orbits in the prograde and takes about a year and a half to circle Jupiter, but it doesn't behave quite like the rest of the group.

But Sheppard suspects these moons could be holdouts, the "last remnants" of early solar system objects. Those 2017 moons were labeled S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1. And after follow-up observations, they've confirmed that Jupiter has even more moons than we thought.

Jupiter's newly-discovered moons are all less than two miles wide, which may explain why they've only just been discovered now.

The existence of so many small satellites suggests that they arose from cosmic collisions after Jupiter itself formed, more than 4 billion years ago. So they were likely formed after they had dissipated.

"We were able to go a little bit fainter than anyone has been able to go in the past, and that's why we were able to find these new moons", asserted Sheppard.

They would be able to tell the difference between Jupiter and the objects around it versus the distant solar system objects because any objects around Jupiter would be moving at the same rate as the gas giant. These distant retrograde moons are grouped into at least three distinct orbital groupings and are thought to be the remnants of three once-larger parent bodies that broke apart during collisions with asteroids, comets, or other moons.

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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.

Nine moons are part of the planet's outer swarm of moons, orbiting in retrograde or in the opposite direction of Jupiter's spin rotation. It has been nicknamed Valetudo, after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter.

"Our other discovery is a real oddball and has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon", Sheppard explained.

Two of the newly discovered moons orbit much closer to Jupiter and have a prograde orbit, meaning that they orbit in the same direction as the planet. Nine others orbit with Jupiter's outer retrograde moons in the opposite direction.

It's actually going head-on into these retrograde objects.

"Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road", said Sheppard. It's also the smallest known moon of Jupiter, scientists said. These moons include the famous Galileans: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Coincidentally, Jupiter has been near the area and they managed to open two of its previously unknown companion.

Turns out Jupiter has 12 extra moons we didn't know about. The massive gas giant began muscling in on the telescope's line of sight and in doing so, revealed a few secrets of its own. Sheppard expects there could be even more small moons lurking out there.

Well, it probably won't stay at 79 for very long.

Our solar system is already teaming with almost 200 moons, and we just got 12 more to add to the list. It's just very hard to follow those.

The remaining Jovian moon has been labeled an oddity, and here's why.

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