Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter - one may collide with the others

19 July, 2018, 13:08 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • 12 new jupiter moons

But the "oddball" moon has really excited the astronomers.

With this discovery, Jupiter now has a staggering 79 known orbiting moons - more than any other planet in the solar system.

Astronomers from the Carnegie Institution for Science have spotted 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the total to 79.

The oddball moon, which they named Valetudo, was captured in the opposite direction from the retrograde moons.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research.

Why are we just now hearing about it? The 7 new retrograde moons join 45 other satellites that take 2-3 years to orbit.

It should be noted that the July 17 announcement by Carnegie Science also contains two moons that had been previously found and announced in 2017. "We could choose our field of observation to be very close to Jupiter, so we could look for things moving at Jupiter's rate-foreground objects, moving quite fast", while still on the hunt for relatively slower-moving objects in the fringes of the solar system, Sheppard says. Aside from the hulking Galilean moons that stretch thousands of miles in diameter, most of Jupiter's moons, including the new twelve, are between a mile and a few tens of miles across.

It means Jupiter, the oldest and largest planet in the solar system, has more moons than any of the other seven.

If they had formed earlier, the influence of gas and dust would have created drag and caused them to spiral inward to the planet, lost forever.

Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter - one may collide with the others

Because it's orbiting in the opposite direction of the nine "new" retrograde moons, and across their paths, there is a high risk that it will hit one of them, according to the statement.

The new Jovian moons range from 1km to 3km across. They are thought to be the remnants of larger parent bodies that were broken apart in collisions with asteroids, comets and other moons. The new moons are faint, so researchers haven't been able to spot features on their surfaces or clues to what they're made of. The name Valetudo has been proposed for it, after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter, the goddess of health and hygiene.

Since Valetudo is moving in the opposite direction to the other retrograde moons, there is a greater chance of a collision occurring, and is probably inevitable. "And that makes it a very unstable situation". "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust", Dr. Sheppard said.

"Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road".

The moon we see today is the remainder of a much bigger world that blew apart after the crashes.

Beyond these is a group known as the "prograde" moons - more tiny, irregular satellites, all of which travel around Jupiter in the same direction that the planet rotates (counter-clockwise, in the view shown below).

Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun, has a diameter of 142,984km. As for how many ultimately will be found, no one knows for sure.

Sheppard said Jupiter and Saturn may actually have a similar number of moons, with some of the latter's smaller ones not yet detected. And we're going a little deeper than in the past as well. Sheppard expects there could be even more small moons lurking out there.

"What astonishes me about these moons is that they're the remnants of what the planet formed from", he said.

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