New Moons Discovered for Jupiter, Including One 'Oddball'

23 July, 2018, 17:43 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter

The discovery of the 12 new moons brings the total number of Jovian moons to 79, more than are known to circle any other planet in our cosmic neighbourhood.

The oddball moon crosses the orbits of the outer retrograde moons. Given the moons' stable orbits and kilometer-scale sizes, the collisions were likely chance events later in the solar system's history.

They were first spotted a year ago by a team of astronomers originally on the hunt for the elusive Planet Nine, a hypothetical body speculated to exist beyond Neptune.

We reached out to Carnegie Institution for Science Professor Scott S. Sheppard to ask about the "oddball" description.

Recovery image of Valetudo from the Magellan telescope in May 2018; Jupiter is not in the field but off to the upper left.

[Image: Roberto Molar-Candanosa, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science] According to Shepard, Valetudo is "a real oddball" that is taking its own path.

Why are we just now hearing about it?

The moons had not been spotted before because they are tiny. Just like that, Jupiter has 12 new moons., all of which have been confirmed by other telescopes. They make the circulation less than one year. Because they formed between the two belts, the moons are probably composed of rock and ice. Those 2017 moons were labeled S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1. But the newly discovered moons are tiny, ranging from 1 to 3 kilometers in diameter. But, the faith had other plans for the scientists and exposed 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter to them. Since they are still around, now, that means they formed after that gas and dust had been swept away by the solar wind.

Nine of the 10 new moons orbit in a retrograde direction, that is, opposite direction of Jupiter's spin. It has a prograde orbit at a distance where the rest of Jupiter's moons have retrograde orbits. The moons orbit in three different groupings and are thought to be the remnants of three bodies that were broken apart in earlier collisions.

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

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.

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

It's actually going head-on into these retrograde objects.

Speaking to theIndependent, he added: "It is as if the moon is travelling the wrong way down a crowded highway". It's also the smallest known moon of Jupiter, scientists said. Galileo discovered the first four of Jupiter's moons, all huge, in 1610. The retrograde moons take almost two years to completely orbit Jupiter. In fact, of Jupiter's 67 previously discovered moons, the 33 outermost moons all have retrograde orbits. As for how many ultimately will be found, no one knows for sure.

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. It's just very hard to follow those.

The moons are now known by their numerical designations, such as S/2016 J2. Astronomers around the world, including Sheppard, have been looking for Planet Nine ever since.



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