Jupiter has 12 new moons, 79 total in orbit: Scientists

In this image provided by NASA ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team the planet Jupiter

Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter

Of the 12 new moons discovered, 11 are described as normal moons, while the other is an "oddball". 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. This gave the team a unique opportunity to search for new moons around Jupiter in addition to objects located past Pluto, according to the statement.

Jupiter's 79 known moons are the most of any planet in the solar system, followed by the 62 identified around the giant ringed gas planet Saturn. What they found were 12 new moons orbiting the planet.

"We're looking for new possible planets and dwarf planets in our solar system, just seeing what is out there", Sheppard said.

Most of the discoveries were made with the Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco 4-metre telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American in Chile, operated by the National Optical Astronomical Observatory of the United States.

Outside the orbits of the prograde moons is the largest group, the retrograde moons, which orbit around Jupiter in the opposite direction to the planet's spin. This means it crosses paths with the outer retrograde moons and could collide with them.

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. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust", Dr. Sheppard said.

Using the Blanco four-metre telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American in Chile - which had been recently fitted with a new and highly sensitive instrument called the "Dark Energy Camera", which is about the size of a small auto - they detected objects that seemed to be moving against the background stars.

They were using a more powerful telescope than ever before, allowing the team to peer in at higher resolutions, across a wider field of view than other observations in the past. So they were likely formed after they had dissipated.

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The inner moons take about a year to circle Jupiter, while the outer moons take twice as long.

Astronomers think retrograde moons have a different origin story from prograde moons, which travel in the same direction that their planet rotates.

The moons are now known by their numerical designations, such as S/2016 J2.

Sheppard told nature, Jupiter may have yet another undiscovered moon.

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 spotted the objects, but didn't immediately know if they were moons or just asteroids passing near the planet.

But the "oddball" moon has really excited the astronomers. The probe was scheduled to crash into Jupiter's clouds this month, but instead the mission has been extended until at least July 2021. So hey, why not look for some more moons? This swarm may have originally been three separate moons that broke apart after collisions.

Such collisions would have been very common earlier in Jupiter's history, when most of the moons were still forming from the gas and dust surrounding the young planet.

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