Jupiter has an "oddball" moon and we can relate

23 July, 2018, 17:43 | Author: Kristi Owen
  • Jupiter

During a quest to find Planet Nine, a mysterious planet believed to be on the edge of our solar system, astronomers discovered something else: 12 new moons around Jupiter. 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.

A team led by Carnegie's Scott S Sheppard, first witnessed this marvel in 2017 while Shepherd was observing long distant solar system objects as part of the quest for a probable enormous planet far beyond Pluto.

The discovery means Jupiter, the oldest and largest planet in the solar system, has more moons than any of the other seven. Previously believed to hold just 61 objects, this group circles the planet in the opposite direction of Jupiter's rotation and is even more distant than the prograde moons.

About 40 satellites of Jupiter was discovered by the team of astronomers led by Scott Sheppard in 2001-2004.

Being less than 1km in diameter, this moon is more distant and more inclined than those found orbiting in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation (prograde) and would also likely be the planet's smallest. Valetudo orbits Jupiter in the same direction that the planet spins, but a bunch of other small moons share the same orbital path while traveling in the opposite direction.

That brings the number of moons at Jupiter to 79, the most of any planet. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust". If the collisions had happened earlier, the moons would likely have interacted with dust and gas leftover from forming Jupiter and been dragged into the planet.

After the team of scientists initially saw the moons via a telescope at Chile's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, at least four other telescopes were used to verify the moons. On the other hand, among these, there is the smallest moon of Jupiter found to date, Valetudo, named after the daughter of Jupiter and the goddess of hygiene in the Roman mythology. The moons are so faint that they are not actually visible on any single exposure, only when several images are combined.


"Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road", Sheppard wrote in an email to Fast Company.

These new moons aren't exactly record-breakers in terms of size.

The researchers targeted objects moving with Jupiter in the foreground, which revealed the 12 new moons. Sheppard talks of how further research of these moons can even point us in the direction of even understanding the very origins of our solar system. These moons include the famous Galileans: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

It took the team a while to make the required observations to confirm each moon's existence.

The team also discovered one particularly odd moon in the new batch. It takes them about two Earth years to orbit the planet.

Bottom line: For a long time, Jupiter had been known to have dozens of moons.

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