Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Ten newly found moons of Jupiter include a 'wrong-way driver'

Astronomers Accidentally Discover 12 New Moons Orbiting Jupiter The Biggest Planet Now Has a Total of 79 Satellites Jupiter
Doris Mccormick | 20 July, 2018, 23:31

In doing so, the scientists noticed not one, not two, but a full 12 totally new moons whose orbits hadn't yet been documented, bringing the total number of the planet's moons up to a whopping 79.

Astronomers have discovered dozen new moons encircling the Jupiter that will inevitably lead to the planet violent destruction, as they are "driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road". They had set their sights on the outer solar system and were looking for more evidence of the elusive Planet Nine, a predicted but as yet unobserved large outer solar system planet. Previously believed to hold just 61 objects, this group circles the planet in the opposite direction of Jupiter's rotation and is even more distant than the prograde moons.

Astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science and his team were using the telescope to search the edge of the solar system for signs of Planet Nine.

All of the newly discovered moons are small and are estimated to be no more than 3 kilometers across.

Two of the newly discovered satellites orbit with a group that are in between the outer group and the Galilean moons. They are prograde moons, meaning that they orbit in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation. "Thus head-on collisions are likely", Sheppard said.

In fact, Sheppard and his team at Carnegie think that this moon could be all that's left of a previous collision in orbit around Jupiter.

Researchers discover a dozen new moons of Jupiter

Using the Blanco four-metre telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American in Chile - which had been recently fitted with a new and highly sensitive instrument called the "Dark Energy Camera", which is about the size of a small vehicle - they detected objects that seemed to be moving against the background stars.

Jupiter's moon Valetudo (pointed out with orange bars) moves relative to background stars in these images taken with the Magellan Telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory. By contrast, retrograde moons were probably objects that once were wandering around the solar system and got snared by Jupiter's gravity. Since they are still around, now, that means they formed after that gas and dust had been swept away by the solar wind. These satellites are part of a large group of moons that orbit in retrograde far from Jupiter. It has been nicknamed Valetudo, after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter.

Astronomers suspect that the retrograde moons may be the remains of larger moons that were destroyed in head-on collisions with prograde objects. The latest count of 79 known planets includes eight that have not been seen for several years. It's just 1 kilometer wide, which makes it Jupiter's smallest moon, and takes a year and a half to orbit the planet. This happens every time we push observations to the limits, looking for faint, small beasties, and these new moons don't disappoint.

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. Instead, scientists will have to wait for a future spacecraft, either flying past Jupiter or orbiting it.

The astronomers were not intentionally searching for new Jovian moons when they began observing. This is because these outer moons are huddled together in three orbital groupings, which point to three separate origin sources. Nine of them have retrograde orbits, going in the opposite direction to Jupiter's spin.

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