Astronomers Discover Twelve New Jovian Moons | Astronomy

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 20, 2018

These moons include the famous Galileans: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

This screencapture shows the prograde moons of Jupiter, including the two newest discoveries.

Jupiter's moons range in size from shrimpy satellites to whopping space hulks. This new moon, called Valetudo, is a bit of a renegade. "We could kill two birds with one stone: survey for Jupiter moons and very distant objects at the same time".

Astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science and his team were using the telescope to search the edge of the solar system for signs of Planet Nine. The best forecast, for now, is some time in the next billion years. The moons were accidentally discovered while looking for massive planets beyond Pluto. The scientists embarked on a yearlong process that involved several observations to confirm the moons' existence, according to a Carnegie Institution for Science press release.

Telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona were used for the original discovery and year-long confirmation of the moons. When these moons were visible, Jupiter was very close to our own bright moon, so great care was needed to ensure that the images didn't saturate from overexposure. Jupiter is not in the frame and is off to the upper left.

And he thinks Jupiter might have even more moons just as small waiting to be found. "It's like it's going down the highway in the wrong direction". There is one other moon orbiting Jupiter that has the same rotation, but Valetudo orbits further away from the planet so its unorthodox movement is more baffling. The orbits of the new moons are marked with thicker curves.

Jackie Faherty, an astronomer with the American Museum of Natural History in NY who was not part of the squad, said in an email "I like this result". Moreover, its orbit crosses that of other moons in retrograde (those that travel in the opposite direction of Jupiter's rotation), which is to say that at some point, multiple moons could collide.

Turns out Jupiter has 12 extra moons we didn't know about.

Illustration of the new moons orbiting Jupiter
Astronomers discover 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter - one on collision course with the others

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.

As a result, head-on collisions are much more likely to occur between the "oddball" prograde and the retrograde moons, which are moving in opposite directions. Astronomers believe they were once all part of a larger moon that broke apart.

Finding lots of these small moons also tells us about conditions in the early solar system.

It has such a unique orbit it is at risk of smashing into the others - causing a cosmic collision that will grind them to dust.

"What is the original material that built the planets?"

The fact that these smaller moons exist today is evidence that any collisions that created them happened after this era of planet formation.

This Hubble telescope image of the giant planet Jupiter reveals the impact sites of two fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. In the meantime, they're waiting for the IAU to formally accept "Valetudo" as the name for the oddball moon.

The oddball moon is named Valetudo, after the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter. "It reminds me that always searching the question of "what is out" is an unfolding".

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