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Science and Innovations

Hunt for Hypothetical Planet Turns Up New Moons of Jupiter

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

A national team of astronomers looking for the hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ chanced upon two new moons of Jupiter. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The team used telescopes in Flagstaff, Hawaii and Chile to find and track the new moons. The finding brings the number of Jupiter’s moons up to sixty-nine.

Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University is part of the research team. He says, "These are small moons, like a mile across, so they’re not giant moons, and they’re also irregular, so, they can be faint, and their orbits are not necessarily that well known."

Trujillo thinks the moons could be fragments of a shattered asteroid. The team also rediscovered five moons of Jupiter that have been “lost” for more than a decade.

In addition, they’ve found a comet and a couple of asteroids with rare-comet like tails.

‘Planet Nine’ itself remains elusive. Trujillo and a colleague first proposed its existence in 2014. It’s thought to be a giant ice planet orbiting far beyond Neptune. 

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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