12 new moons found around Jupiter of which, one is an oddball

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system with 67 moons as of the last count. Jupiter has intrigued scientists for decades now and they have recently discovered 12 new moons orbiting the giant planet which takes the total moon count to 79. In March 2017, researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Sciences decided to keep an eye on Jupiter and that is when they discovered the moons orbiting Jupiter using the Blanco 4-meter telescope in China which is touted as the largest digital camera on Earth.

The researchers kept lurking through space for any moons that made it possible to search for these tiny moons ranging between a mile and two miles wide. As per the reports, the 12 moons as recently discovered by researchers belong to three types of moons. The first two moons belong to a prograde group or those moons that orbit the planet in the same direction. Moving further, the next group is located 15.5 million miles away from the planet where nine moons rotate in the opposite direction against the rotation of Jupiter and are termed as retrograde.

One of the moon which is now named as Valetudo or the daughter of the Greek god Jupiter is distinct in its behavior. Valetudo actually belongs to a retrograde group, however, it orbits towards the Jupiter’s spin similar to the moons belonging to the prograde group. This means that Valetudo is actually orbiting against other members in the retrograde group which creates an unstable situation.

Valetudo is not the only moon of Jupiter that has a distinct orbit since its moon Carpo follows the same path as Valetudo where it orbits along the Jupiter’s spin but in the same area where other moons are orbiting against Jupiter’s spin. According to Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Science, Valetudo is roughly 1 kilometer across in width which could be a remnant of a larger moon that suffered erosion or moon-on-moon collision.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system which has a great influence on a large space. This is probably the reason why it has 79 moons in the first place. Since it influences a large space, it is difficult to keep an eye on such a colossal area using telescopes which is similar to peeping through a straw which gives exposure to a small area only. Jupiter reflects a lot of light due to its giant size that can dim or faint out any moons orbiting around it and that is why one of the sophisticated and advanced telescopes i.e. Blanco 4-meter telescope was used that allowed researchers to peep through space and keep an eye on Jupiter and the space around it.

Scientists at Carnegie were originally searching for objects and planets and other celestial objects beyond Pluto and that is when the team decided to multitask by studying Jupiter further for any potential moons or bodies. They first discovered 12 moons that moved with Jupiter at the same pace and then, they studied the same moon around Jupiter after a month which led to the discovery of 12 confirmed moons.

Sheppard suggests that the nine moons orbiting around Jupiter have the same direction, orbital angles and other parameters which could have been formed out of bigger moons. Researchers are also contemplating the materials used in the formation of these moons pulled by Jupiter’s gargantuan gravitational pull. According to Douglas Hamilton who is an astronomer at the University of Maryland, the smaller we look, the more moons we can find.

Lou Kerner
Lou is a New York-based science blogger and columnist, working in the Science Journalism industry for the last five and half years. He spends most of her time interacting with the like-minded group of people on social media and contributing proactively to several online discussion forums and websites. You can contact him at lou@tecake.com.


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