With the confirmation of a dozen new moons in Jupiter’s orbit, the biggest planet in the Solar System is suddenly the neighborhood big dog when it comes to moon collection.
With the advent of these 12 previously undiscovered moons, the gas giant now has 92 known orbiting entities, surpassing Saturn’s amazing collection of 83.
Although scientists face a significant challenge in locating these tiny celestial entities, both planets are really expected to be joined by many more moons. The intense glare emitted by Jupiter further complicates things, and any that are tiny enough to have escaped discovery up to now may probably only be spotted with highly powerful telescopes that don’t have a broad enough field of vision to take in the whole Jovian system.
Dr. Scott Sheppard has spent the last several years following the orbits of the 12 new moons, which have recently been published by the Minor Planet Center, unfazed by these challenges (MPC). Sheppard also made a prior discovery of Jovian moons, which was released back in 2018.
Nine of the twelve new satellites are found in the far-off moon clusters that orbit Jupiter retrogradely, or in the opposite direction of the inner moons. These tiny backtracking objects all take at least 550 days to complete one orbit despite their small size.
The remaining three moons were found among the prograde satellite clusters that are situated between the massive, nearby Galilean moons and the distant retrograde objects. One is in the Carpo group, which is around 17 million kilometers (10.6 million miles) from Jupiter, while the other two are in the Himalia group, which circles the planet at a distance of between 11 and 12 million kilometers (6.8 to 7.5 million miles).
The orbits of each of Jupiter’s new 12 accessories take more than 340 days to complete, and none of them are large enough to get a given name. These tiny moons are supposed to be the fragments of much bigger satellites that broke apart after collision with another object millions of years ago.
Although scientists are unable to pinpoint what caused these old moons to collide, Sheppard’s 2018 discovery provided a hint in the form of an uncommon moon known as Valetudo. Valetudo defies the Jovian tendency, moving retrograde even though its orbit overlaps that of the far-off retrograde moons.
Valetudo is thought by some astronomers to be the remains of a bigger object that once tore through Jupiter’s retrograde moon clusters like a wrecking ball. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that swimming upstream improves your chances of running into someone.