10 more moons discovered around Jupiter, one is an oddball

19 July, 2018, 01:25 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Astronomers find 12 new moons around Jupiter

The orbits of the twelve newly discovered moons of Jupiter are shown here in bold.

It's getting more crowded around Jupiter.

The astronomers were looking for objects on the fringes of the solar system when they spotted the Jupiter moons.

The team said the likelihood is that the peculiar moon could be the last remnants of a once-larger group of prograde-orbiting moon that would have formed some of the retrograde moon groupings during previous head-on collisions.

The moon orbits in the prograde direction, but at a greater distance from Jupiter with an orbital period of about a year and a half.

The last moon is fittingly weird, considering how freaky Jupiter is.

Astronomers have found 12 previously unknown moons circling Jupiter, including one "oddball" whose days are numbered, due to its highly unusual orbit.

It takes around 18 months to orbit Jupiter, and its orbit passes that of the retrograde moons, which makes collisions pretty likely.

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"This is an unstable situation", said Dr Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institution for Science team. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust".

All the moons may be fragments that broke apart when their larger, parent cosmic bodies collided. After their observations and more than a year of follow-ups and confirmations, they announced this week that they found 12 new moons.

Depending on what survives from any such collision, Jupiter may then have even more moons.

This orbital arrangement means Jupiter appears as the largest disc in the sky and will be visible from sundown to sunrise.

After the team of scientists initially saw the moons via a telescope at Chile's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, at least four other telescopes were used to verify the moons. A prograde satellite may simply have been floating through the solar system before being captured by Jupiter. "It took a year to figure out what these objects were". These two newly discovered moons take a little less than a year to travel around Jupiter.

Scientists classified the findings as 11 "normal" outer moons, and another that they are calling an "oddball" for its odd orbit. The smallest moon is just over a half-mile across, while the largest is about three miles in diameter. And with Jupiter being the biggest planet in our solar system, astronomers need to be able to see as much of the space around it as possible. Sheppard's girlfriend came up with a name for it: Valetudo, the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter. But Valetudo, in addition to being the smallest discovered, orbits in prograde, or the same direction as the planet's spin. "They're going around the planet in the opposite direction that Jupiter rotates", Sheppard says. While the team did discover 12 new moons, two were announced a year ago. Maybe we need something similar for tiny moons.

Eleven are "normal" outer moons, but the 12th, thought to be less than 1km in diameter, has been termed an "oddball" due to its curious orbit.

"If we do find this planet in the next few years, it would be a pretty fantastic discovery for astronomy". The telescope recently was upgraded with the Dark Energy Camera, making it a powerful tool for surveying the night sky for faint objects.



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