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Ten New Moons Discovered Around Jupiter

Ten New Moons Discovered Around Jupiter

"New cameras allow us to cover the whole space around Jupiter in a few images, and this camera is well-shaded", Sheppard said. Most of these prograde moons take less than a year to travel around the planet.

The survey looked for objects one kilometre and larger, so there is a chance that there are other, smaller "moonlets" in orbit around the giant Jupiter.

Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones.

With the moon's orbit set at an angle to the rest, this means that Valetudo doesn't take the riskiest path around Jupiter, but it does dive through the orbits of the retrograde moons, inviting a collision at some point.

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. Others including the oddball are "pro-grade" moons travelling with the planet's spin. This tells us something about the timing of the formation of these moon families, which, in turn, tells us something new about the formation of the Solar System. To check whether this could have happened, the researchers are working on supercomputer simulations of these orbits to calculate how many times an object with Valetudo's orbit could have collided with the retrograde moons in the solar system's lifetime.

Due to their sizes-one to three kilometers-these moons are more influenced by surrounding gas and dust. Two of the newly discovered moons were found among these prograde moons, and take a little less than a year to go around in their orbit once.

The last moon is fittingly weird, considering how freakish Jupiter is. Valetudo is the name of Jupiter's great-granddaughter and a Roman goddess of health and hygiene, so it fits the bill. They are thought to be the remnants of larger parent bodies that broke apart as a result of a collision with other bodies like asteroids, comets or other moons. If small moons like these were around when the solar system was still thick with gas and dust, drag forces would have slowed them down and caused them to fall into Jupiter, never to be seen again.

The team think this small "oddball" prograde moon could be the last-remaining remnant of a once-larger prograde-orbiting moon that formed some of the retrograde moon groupings during past head-on collisions. These are part of a group of prograde moons that orbit closer to Jupiter than the retrograde moons do. Even though a dozen new moons is a pretty good haul, Sheppard expects that more searching will turn up even more moons. The confirmation of 10 was announced Tuesday; two were confirmed earlier.

"The most interesting find is this object we're calling Valetudo", Sheppard says. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust".

One of the new moons was described as a "real oddball" by researcher Scott Sheppard at the Carnegie Institution for Science, because of its tiny size, it measuring just about a half-mile (one kilometer) across.

The newfound moons are small, between about 1 and 3 kilometers across.

"If we do find this planet in the next few years, it would be a pretty incredible discovery for astronomy".

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