Ten more moons of Jupiter discovered

Ten more moons of Jupiter discovered

Pablo Tucker
July 18, 2018

"They did not form with the planet, but were likely captured by the planet during or just after the planet-formation epoch", says Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC.

They would be able to tell the difference between Jupiter and the objects around it versus the distant solar system objects because any objects around Jupiter would be moving at the same rate as the gas giant.

Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, is the ninth-largest object in the solar system, bigger than the planet Mercury and dwarf planets like Pluto.

This means, unlike those closer to Jupiter, it crosses the outer retrograde moons.

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

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. Others including the oddball are "pro-grade" moons travelling with the planet's spin. The satellite's oddness comes from its tiny size and the fact that, although it's out in the realm of the retrograde moons, it's orbiting in the opposite direction to them. It's just 1 kilometer wide, which makes it Jupiter's smallest moon, and takes a year and a half to orbit the planet.

Due to their sizes-one to three kilometers-these moons are more influenced by surrounding gas and dust. Sheppard's team speculates Valetudo could be a remnant of a collision between one or more moons. They are thought to be the remnants of larger parent bodies that broke apart as a result of a collision with other bodies like asteroids, comets or other moons. It's also the smallest known moon of Jupiter, scientists said. Nearly all of Jupiter's prograde moons are believed to be fragments of a larger moon that broke apart.

Astronomers group Jupiter's moons by their distance from the planet as well as their orbital direction. The retrograde set of moons take about two years to complete a lap around Jupiter, and the prograde ones take under a year.

Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons circling Jupiter.

Astronomers oftentimes have to look very, very carefully for something that they believe exists in a certain spot in space. "Not because of its orbit, but rather because it's so small".

The moonlets mostly follow Jupiter's known patterns: Located far beyond the planet's large primary moons (purple), two of the new moonlets belong to a grouping (blue) that spins in the same direction as the planet, all of which are believed to be the fragments of one large shattered moon.

"The question is, are there more Valetudos, weird objects that have these different orbits", Sheppard said.

Of the 12 newly discovered moons, 11 are "normal, "according to a statement from the Carnegie Institution for Science".

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

A head-on collision between two moons would "grind the objects down to dust", he added. Their existence shows that they were likely formed after this gas and dust dissipated.

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