Science & Nature

12 new moons discovered orbiting Jupiter

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Jupiter was known to have 80 moons, But a discovery added 12 more moons to the list. Hence, Jupiter has 92 moons in total, making it the planet with the most moons from the previous record holder, Saturn.

With the discovery of new moons, Saturn is found to have 83 moons, surpassing Jupiter to have the largest number of moons orbiting it. But this discovery helps Jupiter to get its title back from Saturn.

The Minor Planet Center (MPC), operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, has released the orbits of these 12 previously unreported Jupiter’s moons. The orbital calculations also confirm that the objects are in orbit around Jupiter.

The recently discovered moons are small and far away, requiring more than 340 days to orbit Jupiter. Nine of the twelve are among the 71 outermost Jovian moons, with orbits longer than 550 days. These moons were most likely caught by Jupiter, as shown by the fact that they orbit retrogradely and not the inner moons’. Only five retrograde moons are greater than 8 kilometers (5 miles).

Scott Sheppard (Carnegie Institute for Science) is the one who submitted observations of the Jovian system taken between 2021 and 2022.

He says, “The smaller moons probably formed when collisions fragmented larger objects.”

Three newly discovered moons are among 13 others that orbit in a prograde direction and lie between the large, close-in Galilean moons and the far-out retrograde moons. These prograde moons are thought to have formed where they are.

Sheppard said, “They’re harder to find than the more distant retrograde moons, though. The reason is that they are closer to Jupiter, and the scattered light from the planet is tremendous.”

“That light obscures them in the sky. Five were found before 2000, and only eight more have been discovered since then.”

Outside the Galilean moons, there are two groups of prograde Jovian moons: the Himalia group and the Carpo group.

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The Himalia group, which has the name of the fifth-largest Jovian moon, Himalia, is the nearest. The group contains nine members, two of whom are among the recent discoveries, and is located between 6.8 and 7.5 million miles (11 million and 12 million kilometers) from Jupiter.

The Carpo group is far off at around 10 million miles (17 million km) from Jupiter. Out of these 12 moons, one of the moons is of Carpo’s. Before this clutch of discoveries, there was only one moon in this group besides Carpo itself, so the discovery of another doubled the population of this group.

Brett Gladman (University of British Columbia, Canada) said“However, while Jupiter may have the most moons for now, Saturn might catch up. A search for objects with sizes down to about 3 kilometers across that are moving along with the gas giants found three times more near Saturn than near Jupiter. The more numerous Saturnian objects might have come from a collision that disrupted a larger moon a few hundred million years ago.”

“If we could count all moons measuring at least 3 kilometers across. Saturn would have more moons than all the rest of the solar system.”

Sheppard says, “More publications are expected.”

“The discovery of a dozen new moons for Jupiter makes the king of planets the king of moons, too — at least for now.”

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