Astronomers discover 12 new moons around Jupiter

Astronomers just discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter.
By Tyler MacDonald | Jul 18, 2018
Scientists just discovered 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the planet's total number of moons to 79, the most of any planet in the Milky Way. The moons were discovered while researchers were searching for objects at the edge of our solar system.

"Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant solar system objects, so we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our solar system," said Scott Sheppard, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and co-author on the study.

One of these objects was "Planet Nine," which still remains undiscovered.

Of the new moons, one is an "oddball," according to Sheppard.

"It has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon," he said, explaining that it orbits in the opposite direction as the moons near it, increasing the likelihood of head-on collisions.

"This is an unstable situation," he said. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust."

"It's also likely Jupiter's smallest known moon, being less than one kilometer (0.6 mile) in diameter," he added.

The discovery was made through the combined efforts of telescopes in Hawaii, Chile, and Arizona.

"It takes several observations to confirm an object actually orbits around Jupiter," said Gareth Williams of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. "So, the whole process took a year."

Back in 1610, legendary scientist Galileo detected Jupiter's four largest moons, Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede, for the first time ever.

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