Ten newly found moons of Jupiter include a 'wrong-way driver'

Ignacio Smith
July 23, 2018

Nine of the new moons are clustered in the outer swarm of Jupiter's moons and have roughly 2-year-long retrograde orbits, meaning they're going the opposite direction of the planet's rotation.

This discovery, however, was not meant to happen as the team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science, led by Scott Sheppard, was searching for space objects beyond Pluto's orbit. More than 400 years later, astronomers are still finding moons orbiting the solar system's largest planet.

"No surprise to me that it is hoarding more moons", she said of Jupiter, adding that "studying the dynamical history of such objects can tell us a lot about solar system formation."With a diameter of less than one kilometer, Valetudo is believed to be Jupiter's smallest moon".

The International Astronomical Union, the worldwide authority on recognizing celestial bodies, published on Tuesday the orbits for Jupiter's new moons, which were identified by a team of astronomers at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC.

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.

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The nine retrograde moons recently found in Jupiter's orbit go around the planet in roughly two years. They have proposed to call the new moon Valetudo, named after the great-grandaughter of the Roman god Jupiter, the goddess of health and hygiene.

"We think there are more moon fragments yet to be found around Jupiter", Sheppard said, "but technology will need to get better for us to find them".

Researchers suggest that these moons are leftovers of collisions between space rocks that are now encircling Jupiter.

Astronomers made the discoveries using the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile and the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

A new bumper haul of moons has been discovered by accident around Jupiter, with one of them described as an "oddball". They spotted the objects, but didn't immediately know if they were moons or just asteroids passing near the planet.

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

Diagram of the new moons split into different groups.

"So, the whole process took a year", Williams, who calculated the orbits of the new moons, said in a statement.

The same survey that discovered these 10 also resurveyed two other moons previously discovered by the researchers, who verified the moons' orbital paths.

A dozen new moons orbiting Jupiter have been discovered by astronomers... by mistake. The orbits of 9 other small Jovian moons are yet unknown.

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The remarkable chance find brings the gas giant's tally of moons to a whopping 79 compared with 62 for Saturn, the planet with the second most. Next out are the four large Galilean moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - that are easily visible from Earth, even with binoculars or a small telescope.

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