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12 new moons spotted around Jupiter - but one may destroy them all

12 new moons spotted around Jupiter - but one may destroy them all

Galileo discovered the four biggest ones back in the 17th century, and a lot of smaller ones have been found as telescopes and techniques have improved. Of Jupiter's 79 moons, 26 remain unnamed, including nine of the 10 new ones.

In June 2017, the same team discovered two mile-wide moons and five lost moons. It's also probably the smallest moon that Jupiter has, according to Sheppard. Some of them are so far from Jupiter that they take two years to travel around it once!

Up until recently, the total number of known satellites orbiting around Jupiter sat at 67, but now scientists with the Carnegie Institution for Science have announced the discovery of 12 new moons, bringing the total up to 79. He and his team have been photographing the skies with some of today's best telescope technology, hoping to catch sight of this mysterious ninth planet. If there were previously undiscovered moons in far-flung orbits around Jupiter, they might spot them, too.

Led by Sheppard, a team of scientists were looking at the outer fringes of the solar system for distant objects, and the big planet was simply in their line of sight. "This is an unstable situation", Sheppard noted. "So that's why we're able to find these new moons".

It took a year for their orbits to be confirmed with a series of other telescopes in the United States and Chile. Jupiter is not in the frame, but off to the upper left. The first is that it's small in size, with a diameter that totals only about a kilometer.

Valetudo is more than just the odd moon out; it's also a serious collision hazard.

"Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road", Sheppard wrote in an email to Fast Company. The two inner moons take less than a year to orbit Jupiter. The lost moons were initially sighted in 2003, but scientists could not define their exact orbits and lost track of them.

Enlarge ImageA look at Jupiter's new moons.                  Carnegie Institution for Science
Enlarge ImageA look at Jupiter's new moons. Carnegie Institution for Science

We've got a nice little moon orbiting Earth, haven't we?

None of the new moons are more than 2 miles in diameter, which explains why they have not been noticed before. These distant retrograde moons are grouped into at least three distinct orbital groupings and are thought to be the remnants of three once-larger parent bodies that broke apart during collisions with asteroids, comets, or other moons. Nine others orbit with Jupiter's outer retrograde moons in the opposite direction. The largest among them are the Galilean satellites-Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto-large moons that orbit close to the planet. Since all these objects formed from the same spinning disk of gas and dust when the solar system was born, this makes sense (and in fact was why this formation mechanism of the Sun and planets was first proposed decades ago).

"The giant planets formed out of material that used to be in that region".

It has such a unique orbit it is at risk of smashing into the others - causing a cosmic collision that will grind them to dust. This is the largest number of moons of any planet in the solar system.

Once they finish running and analyzing the simulations, the team plans to publish the results in early 2019. In mythology, she was the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter.

"They didn't form with Jupiter", he says. "And so when she told me about Valetudo, which is the goddess of hygiene, I said 'That's it, that's what we're naming it'".

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