Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

20 July, 2018, 14:57 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter

But the researchers realised that Jupiter happened to be in a spot that allowed them to examine the area around the gas giant for any unknown natural satellites. That's how many moons astronomers have now identified orbiting the planet Jupiter.

Astrophysicists believe that these small moons, which are clustered in three bands, are the remnants of three massive moons which were broken apart by collisions with other bodies in space.

Valetudo, one of Jupiter's moons named after the goddess of health and hygiene, is fast hurtling on the wrong side of the spaceway, say Scott Sheppard, Carnegie Institution. One moon is located in the outer group but orbits in the opposite direction. The 12th moon, however, is described as "a real oddball", because of its unique orbit and because it is also probably Jupiter's smallest known moon, at less than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter, Sheppard said in the statement.

It is just one kilometre in size, and is flying in the opposite direction to numerous planet's moons and behaves in an entirely different way to any of the other 78 objects orbiting the planet.

More than 400 years after Galileo Galilei discovered the first of Jupiter's moons, astronomers have found a dozen more - including one they've dubbed "oddball" - orbiting the planet. They are prograde moons, meaning that they orbit in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation. Nine of them have retrograde orbits, going in the opposite direction to Jupiter's spin. This hypothetical large prograde moon may also have formed some retrograde moon groupings.

A look at Jupiter's new moons.

Valetudo, as spotted through the Magellan telescope in May 2018.

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It's further away than the prograde moons, taking around one and a half years to orbit around the planet.

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.

As a result, head on collisions are much more likely to occur between this "oddball" prograde moon and its retrograde cousins moving in opposite directions. Such a collision would quickly break apart and grind the object down to dust, Sheppard said. They had set their sights on the outer solar system and were looking for more evidence of the elusive Planet Nine, a predicted but as yet unobserved large outer solar system planet. This planet is larger than Mercury.Shepard said that Valetudo had the possibility of "half-ice and half-rock" composition, and said that small satellites "which are the last remains of a large moon which are on the ground for dust from collision" with other jovian moons.

As part of that search, Sheppard was using the 4-meter Víctor Blanco Telescope in Chile in March of previous year and realized that Jupiter was right near the part of the sky he wanted to search.

Elucidating the complex influences that shaped a moon's orbital history can teach scientists about our solar system's early years. As long as we are watching, we are studying this planet, and it is still creating surprises for us. They realized they could observe Jupiter at the same time.

Following this giant gas planet, Saturn's moon count is 61. These moons include the famous Galileans: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. That is tiny compared to Jupiter's diameter of 88,846 miles (142,984 km).

Rather than delay their work, the researchers made a decision to pivot to studying moons of Jupiter which had flown into their gaze.

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