Astronomers have spotted twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the total of known moons to 79. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.
A team of astronomers led by Carnegie Institution for Science found the moons in images taken from a telescope in Chile. It took a year of follow-up observations from telescopes in Flagstaff and Hawaii to confirm the new moons and calculate their orbits. One of them is unusual: it’s whirling around Jupiter the opposite direction as its nearest neighbors, risking a head-on collision.
The new moons are tiny and might be the remnants of larger objects that broke apart during cataclysmic collisions just after the solar system’s formation.
Four years ago, the same team of astronomers proposed the existence of a giant ice planet far beyond Neptune. Their search for the so-called “Planet 9” turned up these new moons of Jupiter.