Published: Fri, July 20, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Astronomers find 10 new moons around Jupiter, including 'oddball'

Astronomers find 10 new moons around Jupiter, including 'oddball'

The orbit of "oddball" Valetudo, shown in green, compared to the retrograde moons.

For example, the discovery that the smallest moons in Jupiter's various orbital groups are still abundant suggests the collisions that created them occurred after the era of planet formation. Until the announcement this morning by the International Astronomical Union of the discovery of an additional 10 moons about the gas-giant planet.

Sheppard and his team hope to further explore what could've caused these moons to form in order to get a better understanding of how the planet itself formed - and ultimately, more about how the rest of our galaxy came to be.

But what's particularly wild about these newly discovered Jovian moons is that researchers weren't even looking for them.

With less than one kilometer in diameter, Valetudo is considered to be Jupiter's smallest moon.

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It means Jupiter, the oldest and largest planet in the solar system, has more moons than any of the other seven. As you might imagine, that's far more than any other planet in our solar system can boast.

Two other new moons were found to be part of a closer group that orbits in the prograde, or same direction as Jupiter's rotation. All of these moons are thought to be the remnants of three much larger bodies that were destroyed by collisions with other moons, asteroids or comets.

"We had to observe the new candidate Jupiter moons again a month later and again a year later to confirm they were actually orbiting Jupiter and thus were moons of Jupiter", he said.

Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons circling Jupiter.

They take about two years to orbit Jupiter. Nine of the new moons are clustered in the outer swarm of Jupiter's moons and have roughly 2-year-long retrograde orbits, meaning they're going the opposite direction of the planet's rotation. This odd orbit makes it prone to collisions with the retrograde moons that are moving in the opposite direction. "New cameras allow us to cover the whole space around Jupiter in a few images, and this camera is well-shaded", Sheppard said. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust". The satellite, named for Jupiter's great-granddaughter, could be a bit of unfinished business, the last remnant of the ancient moons that provided the grist for the retrograde cluster, the team theorizes. That puts it on a possible collision course with a retrograde moon. The researchers proposed naming the unique find Valetudo after the Roman god Jupiter's great-grandaughter.

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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.

In March 2017, Jupiter was in the ideal location to be observed using the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, which has the Dark Energy Camera and can survey the sky for faint objects. "They also are fragments of the early solar system before the planets were formed, which makes studying them important to learning about the solar system's history".

During its full opposition the planet was brightest in Britain on May between 9:30pm and 4:30am BST while in the U.S. it peaked on May 9 between 1:10am and 6:20am ET. "If one did happen, we would be able to detect it from Earth, but it is unlikely to happen anytime soon". This pair of moons take less than a year to orbit Jupiter.

Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun, has a diameter of 142,984km. Jupiter's moons are getting a sense of what that feels like now, with a newly identified resident careening toward conflict with everyone else.

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