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

Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter

Sheppard, Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University and David Tholen of the University of Hawaii are on a quest to find as many faint, distant objects on the edge of the solar system as they can. Jupiter has the most moons of any other planet.

Our solar system is already teaming with almost 200 moons, and we just got 12 more to add to the list.

It's easy to understand why these 12 new additions had been missed so far.

Sheppard and his colleagues spotted most of the moons using the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, during a campaign aimed at tracking down evidence for the so-called Planet Nine or Planet X.

The discoveries bring the number of Jupiter's known moons to 79, the most around a single planet in our solar system.

The oddball is thought to be Jupiter's smallest moon; it measures roughly 3,000 feet across.

Jupiter might yet have more undiscovered moons, Sheppard told Nature. Galileo discovered the first four of Jupiter's moons, all huge, in 1610.

The recently discovered new Jovian moons are tiny, the maximum size in diameter being 2 miles.

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The same survey that discovered these 10 also resurveyed two other moons previously discovered by the researchers, who verified the moons' orbital paths. Astronomers believe that prograde moons form around a planet from the same cloud of dust and gas, which is why they tend to have closer orbits and matching rotation. Nine of the new discoveries are found in this group.

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

The last of the team's discoveries is the strangest of them all.

With less than one kilometer in diameter, Valetudo is considered to be Jupiter's smallest moon. Chances of the oddball moon crashing into the outer retrograde moons moving in the opposite direction are very real, say the astronomers, who have proposed the oddball be named "Valetudo" after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter, the goddess of health and hygiene. They rotate retrograde, that is, not in the direction of rotation of Jupiter, and in the opposite direction. While nine of the other moons orbit in the opposite direction, farther out in the retrograde group. While the retrograde moons orbit in a clockwise direction, Valetudo travels in a counter-clockwise direction. "So, the whole process took a year". It's also the smallest known moon of Jupiter, scientists said. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust."Some of Jupiter's moons and moon groupings, including the "oddball", could have formed from collisions like this, according to the statement".

"Valetudo's going down the highway the wrong way, so it's very likely it will collide with these other objects".

"It takes several observations to confirm an object actually orbits around Jupiter", Williams said.

Dr Gareth Williams, of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre, Cambridge, Massachusetts, used the team's observations to calculate orbits for the newly found moons.

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