Astronomers have discovered a dozen new moons orbiting Jupiter, including one "oddball" in an orbit that eventually could lead to a head-on collision. "So we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our Solar System".
The discoveries bring the number of Jupiter's known moons to 79, the most around a single planet in our solar system.
Nine of those 10 moons are what the astronomers are calling normal, but they've labeled one as a real oddball. Nine of them, found in the most distant orbits of Jupiter, are in three distinct groups, taking around two Earth years to orbit Jupiter.
Jupiter's retrograde moons are thought to have spawned from three larger bodies which were destroyed during past violent collisions.
If we were to host a system-wide beauty contest among the planets and accepted natural satellites as a valid skill, Jupiter would have a pretty unfair advantage. This planet is larger than Mercury.Shepard said that Valetudo had the possibility of "half-ice and half-rock" composition, and said that small satellites "which are the last remains of a large moon which are on the ground for dust from collision" with other jovian moons. Followup observations were conducted from four other telescopes, in Chile, Arizona and Hawaii, to confirm the finds. Bob Jacobson and Marina Brozovic at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed the calculated orbit of the unusual oddball moon in 2017 in order to double check its location prediction during the 2018 recovery observations in order to make sure the new interesting moon was not lost.
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Valetudo orbits Jupiter in the same direction that the planet spins, but a bunch of other small moons share the same orbital path while travelling in the opposite direction.
Sheppard, whose report appears in the International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Electronic Circular, suspects that Valetudo is the final remnant of a once much larger moon that has been ground to dust by collisions in the past. "We think these moons are the last remnants of the material that formed the giant planets". Valetudo is the goddess of health and hygiene, which can not help with this little oddball moon's self-confidence.
Aside from the hulking Galilean moons that stretch thousands of miles in diameter, most of Jupiter's moons, including the new twelve, are between a mile and a few tens of miles across.
But the huge gravity of Jupiter could also capture other passing objects, and those space rocks sometimes end up orbiting the other way, in what's known as retrograde motion. That's because Valetudo, named for the Roman goddess of health and hygiene, is a true oddball.
This screencapture shows the prograde moons of Jupiter, including the two newest discoveries. It was probably forming in the giant planet region and grew to be several Earth masses in size, and then it got close to one of the giant planets and was thrown out into the outer solar system. There are two moons close to the planet that are spinning in the same direction. One moon is located in the outer group but orbits in the opposite direction.