By Jove! Astroboffins spot 12 new spanking moons around Jupiter

An artist's impression of the lightning storms on Jupiter. Pic NASA  JPL

A rogue neighbor can make life unpredictable. That implies this moon (or the retrograde moons) are literally new, captured recently compared to the age of the solar system itself. It's more serious than an icy glare from the front stoop.

"Our other discovery is a real oddball and has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon", Sheppard said.

Sheppard adds that the moons may be leftovers from early solar system objects. Is that properly a moon, or just a bit of debris? At the same time, they watched for Planet Nine or smaller, distant dwarf planets in the background. If you said four, you might be Galileo.

Images of the oddball moon - now called Valetudo - from the Magellan telescope in Chile in May, 2018. If the collisions had happened earlier, the moons would likely have interacted with dust and gas leftover from forming Jupiter and been dragged into the planet.

This discovery, however, was not meant to happen as the team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science, led by Scott Sheppard, was searching for space objects beyond Pluto's orbit. Each is only one to three kilometres wide, and thus would be very hard to spot using most telescopes. Sheppard talks of how further research of these moons can even point us in the direction of even understanding the very origins of our solar system.

Following this giant gas planet, Saturn's moon count is 61. "We know nothing, really, more than that".

"So, the whole process took a year", Williams, who calculated the orbits of the new moons, said in a statement. Of the 12 new moons discovered, 11 are described as normal moons, while the other is an "oddball".

It doesn't behave like the other moons, which tend to fall into a few categories. Many of Jupiter's outer moons were likely formed by collisions between larger retrograde moons and oddball prograde satellites.

The moon, which has the proposed name Valetudo, orbits in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation, unlike all the other moons in the outer group.

Beyond these is a group known as the "prograde" moons - more tiny, irregular satellites, all of which travel around Jupiter in the same direction that the planet rotates (counter-clockwise, in the view shown below). In their recent observations, Sheppard's team documented nine of these (along with two prograde, closer-in moons). They found 12, two of which were announced a year ago.

They all turned out to be moons of Jupiter.

Scientists classified the findings as 11 "normal" outer moons, and another that they are calling an "oddball" for its unusual orbit.

"This moon is going down the highway the wrong way", Sheppard said. Sheppard's team speculates Valetudo could be a remnant of a collision between one or more moons. Over the course of a billion years, it may even cease to exist.

It's possible the various orbital moon groupings we see today were formed in the distant past through this exact mechanism. Verifying the observations took a year, and then the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center - the clearinghouse for gathering and disseminating solar system data - released the findings. Nine of the new discoveries are found in this group. "So that's why we're able to find these new moons".

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