Jupiter's moon count climbs to 79, including tiny 'oddball'

21 Julio, 2018, 04:25 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • Jupiter's Moons

That brings the total number of Jovian moons to 79. The 12th and final moon, however, has instead been labeled an "oddball" by the team.

This is an unstable situation.

The team first glimpsed the moons in March last year from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, but needed more than a year to confirm that the bodies were locked in orbit around the gas giant.

"It's like driving a vehicle on the wrong side of the highway", Sheppard said in a statement.

Nine of the recently spotted moons fall into a separate category called retrograde moons.

Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons circling Jupiter. While the retrograde moons orbit in a clockwise direction, Valetudo travels in a counter-clockwise direction.

Also, if the moons had formed earlier, there likely would have been more crashes, the team explained. They knew that the solar system's largest planet was going to be bright and hanging in the sky all night.

"I kind of always jokingly say that she's a very cleanly person; she likes to take multiple showers a day", Sheppard says. Also another satellite of Jupiter was the smallest, it is only about a kilometer in diameter and was named "Valetudo". Those retrograde moons are then further grouped into three distinct sections. It's likely that even more small moons are still waiting to be found. Maybe 100 or more of the really small ones.

How many moons does Jupiter have?

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Jupiter's moons are arranged in a specific pattern that the giant planet has worked out over time.

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Sheppard did not set out to detect new moons.

But Sheppard suspects these moons could be holdouts, the "last remnants" of early solar system objects.

About 40 satellites of Jupiter was discovered by the team of astronomers led by Scott Sheppard in 2001-2004. In March previous year, he was at the Blanco four-meter telescope in Chile. They realized they could observe Jupiter at the same time.

Jupiter's moons are sort of like opposite lanes on a highway. Technology is making it easier to observe Jupiter and the area around it in greater detail, proving that discoveries are just waiting to be made in our own corner of the universe.

The newly discovered moons await naming, a task for which the public may be enlisted, so it's a good idea to brush up on the IAU's naming rules for Jovian moons - and which names have already been taken. After verification, they are being reported today by the International Astronomical Union, based in Paris. Scientists were using the camera to look for a large but elusive planet beyond Pluto, dubbed Planet X or Planet Nine.

Sheppard, Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University and David Tholen of the University of Hawaii are on a quest to find as many faint, distant objects on the edge of the solar system as they can.

SHEPPARD: They didn't form with Jupiter. He and his colleagues announced the discovery on 17 July. In mythology, she was the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter. One moon is located in the outer group but orbits in the opposite direction.

Because it's orbiting in the opposite direction of the nine "new" retrograde moons, and across their paths, there is a high risk that it will hit one of them, according to the statement.

SHEPPARD: Maybe there would have to be something - new definition of small - for the small moons. Saturn's rings, for example, are thought to consist of particles that range in size from a sand grain to a house - too small for spotting and tracking individual particles.

PALCA: Come on. It's got to be mini-moon, don't you think?

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