Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

12 new jupiter moons

One of these new moons turned out to be a bit of a rebel.

So, what of this final "oddball" moon? But every so often, the planets seem to align (no pun intended) and a new discovery just falls right into their laps. And more than a third of those belong to a single planet: Jupiter. Sheppard, who is broadly interested in the formation of solar systems and has been involved in the discovery of 48 of Jupiter's known moons, realized this was the flawless opportunity to advance two separate research goals with the same telescope data. "And that makes it a very unstable situation".

"The question is, are there more Valetudos, weird objects that have these different orbits", Sheppard said. This cosmic clique is thought to be fragments of a single larger moon that broke apart. Jupiter is not in the frame, but off to the upper left.

The moons are too small to see with the average telescope - measuring only a few kilometers in size. "Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road", Sheppard tells Sample.

Scott Sheppard: "We believe these objects were probably captured by Jupiter a long time ago and they are grouped in their orbits". One of the finds is an oddball that moves in the opposite direction from its neighbors.

If these raw materials had still been present when Jupiter's first moons collided to form its current clusters, the drag exerted on the smaller ones would have made them spiral inwards.

The renegade moon has an inclined orbit that crosses those of others moving in the opposite direction, greatly increasing the possibility of a collision.

The announcement on Tuesday by researchers in the United States brought the total number of the moons known to be circling the giant gas planet to 79. It is also likely Jupiter's smallest known moon, being less than one kilometre [0.6 miles] in diameter'. Nine of the new satellites orbit in a distant swarm of outer moons that are thought to be leftover from a series of collisions that might have involved what were once three larger bodies.

Scientists believe moons like Valetudo and its siblings appeared soon after Jupiter formed. That puts them in the category known as retrograde moons.

Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'
Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

Elucidating the complex influences that shaped a moon's orbital history can teach scientists about our Solar System's early years.

Jupiter, it's safe to say, is one of the marvels of our solar system.

"Jupiter was well-placed in the sky to kill two birds with one stone", Sheppard said.

It also shows that, while we continue to gaze out into the universe for new discoveries, we are certainly not done discovering new objects, in our very own "backyard".

Sheppard said Jupiter and Saturn may actually have a similar number of moons, with some of the latter's smaller ones not yet detected. They realized they could observe Jupiter at the same time.

When you're scanning space for a distant planet, that's potentially lurking at the far edges of our solar system, it certainly pays off to keep an eye on what's going on a little closer to home!

Once they finish running and analyzing the simulations, the team plans to publish the results in early 2019.

Then, there's the oddball.

The IAU requires moons of Jupiter to have names related to the Roman god Jupiter.

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