'Oddball' among 12 new moons discovered around Jupiter

'Oddball' among 12 new moons discovered around Jupiter

All the newly identified moons are relatively small, ranging in size from about six-tenths of a 1km to 4km.

Jupiter might yet have more undiscovered moons, Sheppard told Nature. In doing so, the scientists noticed not one, not two, but a full 12 totally new moons whose orbits hadn't yet been documented, bringing the total number of the planet's moons up to a whopping 79.

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

Interestingly, the astronomers believe that this is what happened in the past.

The discovery, which was confirmed by observations made with several other telescopes, delighted other astronomers."I love this result", Jackie Faherty, an astronomer with the American Museum of Natural History in NY who was not part of the team, said in an email. The 12th and final moon, however, has instead been labeled an "oddball" by the team. Image credit: Carnegie Institution for Science.

Why are we just now hearing about it?

With current technology, as well as the next generation of telescopes that will have even more capabilities, Sheppard believes that they could definitively say whether Planet Nine exists in the next few years. These take two years to orbit the planet. Those 2017 moons were labeled S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1.

They also have a retrograde orbit, or the opposite direction to the spin of Jupiter on its axis.

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.

Two of the new moons are part of the prograde group, a bunch of moons that are relatively close to Jupiter and rotate in the same direction as the planet.

Astronomers describe the twelfth new Jovian moon as an "oddball".

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 is moving prograde while all the other objects at a similar distance from Jupiter are moving retrograde". There is one other moon orbiting Jupiter that has the same rotation, but Valetudo orbits further away from the planet so its unorthodox movement is more baffling. "Thus head-on collisions are likely", Sheppard said. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust", Dr. Sheppard said. It's essentially driving down the highway in the wrong direction, Sheppard explained.

But in the images, taken by the telescope in Chile, they did spot 12 new points of light in the vicinity of Jupiter. The largest Galilean moon, Ganymede, is bigger than the planet Mercury. Well, not exactly. Those dozen moons have, of course, always been in Jupiter's orbit, but it was only this week that researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science announced their discovery. Jupiter happened to be in the same field of view, so they also looked for any as yet unknown moons. It took much longer for the other 10 to have their orbits verified. But then there was one more, a moon the researchers term the "oddball" of the bunch. It's just very hard to follow those.

To put that into context, Jupiter's closest rival in the number-of-things-flying-around-it stakes is Saturn, and Saturn only has 62.

Explorers looking for a planet and discovered several celestial bodies.

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