'Oddball' among 12 new moons discovered around Jupiter


The scientists note that they were able to discover these new moons thanks to the lower detection threshold of the telescope. "So, the whole process took a year", Dr. Williams said. Uranus and Neptune are in the row with 27 and 14 moons respectively, according to the current space information.

Of the dozen new moons discovered orbiting Jupiter (bringing the planet's total to a whopping 79), one really stands out. And one of them is quite the oddball.

The astronomers were not intentionally searching for new Jovian moons when they began observing. Lead researcher Scott S. Sheppard from Carnegie Institution for Science said. Image credit: Carnegie Institution for Science.

Recovery image of Valetudo from the Magellan telescope in May 2018 Jupiter is not in the field but off to the upper left. Image credit Carnegie Institution for Science

Why are we just now hearing about it? "It probably has collided with them over time", Sheppard said. Followup observations were conducted from four other telescopes, in Chile, Arizona and Hawaii, to confirm the finds.

The hunt for Planet Nine is turning up all sorts of unusual discoveries, just like the mysterious rocky object in the Kuiper Belt the Inquisitr reported on earlier this year. Those 2017 moons were labeled S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1.

Astronomers say they've discovered another 12 moons orbiting Jupiter. Valetudo is also one of Jupiter's smallest moon, at less than a kilometre in diameter.

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That also includes one that they've referred to an "oddball", which is flying in the opposite direction to many of Jupiter's other moons and measures just 1km in size. So they were likely formed after they had dissipated. As such, the orbit crosses those of the outer retrograde moons, raising the possibility of a possible head-on collision at some point in the future.

For example, the discovery that the smallest moons in Jupiter's various orbital groups are still abundant suggests the collisions that created them occurred after the era of planet formation. Nine objects, which are in three different groups, are likely the remnants of larger moons that broke apart during collisions.

Finally, there are retrograde moons. That means the revolve around Jupiter opposite from the planet's rotation.

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The final discovery is classified as an "oddball" as it has an orbit unlike any other Jovian moon. "It is moving prograde while all the other objects at a similar distance from Jupiter are moving retrograde. And that makes it a very unstable situation". "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust". But now put a vehicle moving in the wrong direction in that lane, and things will go downhill fast.

Before Sheppard's team conducted their survey, there were 69 known Jovian moons, but there's always been reason to believe there are quite a few more. Next out are the four large Galilean moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - that are easily visible from Earth, even with binoculars or a small telescope. They are also part of a larger group of small moons thought to be the left-over remnants of a once larger moon. The best forecast, for now, is some time in the next billion years.

Here's a number in the news - 79. And we're going a little deeper than in the past as well.

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Rather than delay their work, the researchers made a decision to pivot to studying moons of Jupiter which had flown into their gaze.