Using arrays of telescopes positioned worldwide, a team of astronomers has discovered 12 new moons around the solar system’s largest planet; Jupiter.
With these newest discoveries, the number of moons revolving about the giant planet now totals 79, some tiny and some massive. Interestingly, one of the newest moons discovered seems to be on a collision course to destruction.
SEARCHING THE UNKNOWN
Tuesday, July 17th, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center,the official organization charged with collecting data relating to minor planets,asteroids & comets, released the orbital data of the 12 newly discovered moons.
Scott Sheppard, scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington,D.C., gave comment upon the discovery of the new moons, saying “We were looking for new possible planets & dwarf planets within our solar system, just seeing what was out there.” –
“We were able to go a little bit farther than anyone’s been able to go in the past and that’s why we were able to find these new Jovian moons. By looking at these outer moons, we can get an insight into what the objects were like that ended up forming the planets we see today,” said Sheppard.
Carnegie’s Sheppard did not set out to find moons around Jupiter. Instead, his team at Carnegie, along with astronomers at the University of Hawaii & Northern Arizona University were looking beyond Pluto for unknown objects when the new moons of Jupiter were discovered.
The researchers say that these moons weren’t discovered earlier due to their small size, with the largest of the new discoveries no larger than 3.2 kilometers diameter.
One moon detected by Sheppard and his colleagues is the smallest Jovian moon ever discovered. They named this moon Valetudo, after the mythological daughter of Jupiter.
This tiny, new moon Valetudo has a ‘twist’ or anomaly. It has a prograde orbit while travelling within the path of many moons with retrograde orbits, and data suggests that these various moon-orbits intersect.
Thus, Jupiter’s future may offer chances to see moon-against-moon collisions.
The planet Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, with a mass measuring two and a half times the mass of all the planets in the solar system combined.
The largest Galilean moon, Ganymede, is larger than the planet Mercury.
© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today