One ‘Oddball’ Among 12 Newfound Moons Discovered Orbiting Jupiter

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In fact, scientists suggest that this tiny moon could be the final remnant of a bigger oddball prograde moon that has been ground down to a smaller size after previous collisions. The orbits of the new moons are marked with thicker curves.

The worst-case scenario for Valetudo? "It's going to slap into something".

Sheppard adds that the moons may be leftovers from early solar system objects. And last month, the team behind Juno figured out that Jupiter's lighting is more similar to Earth's than previously thought - which solved a 39-year-old mystery. Because it's like peering around the trees in our own forest and trying to count them all rather than using an overhead drone, Sheppard said. If you go outside late at night and let your eyes adapt, Sheppard says, "the sky blows you away".

Carnegie Institute    
     MYSTERY The new'oddball moon has intrigued boffins
Carnegie Institute MYSTERY The new'oddball moon has intrigued boffins

Several other telescopes were used to confirm the finds, including the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory, also in Chile. No planet in our solar system has more.

Researchers in the United States stumbled upon the new moons while hunting for a mysterious ninth planet that is postulated to lurk far beyond the orbit of Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system. The moon can be seen moving relative to the background of distant stars. Sheppard thinks it may be all that's left of a larger moon that crashed into one or more of the retrograde moons sometime in the past. Because the planet is so big and bright, researchers surmised that unrecorded moons could be faint, or even obscured, or quite far from the gas giant.

In May 2018, more than a year after the initial observations, they confirmed the objects were orbiting Jupiter, and not the sun.

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As a whole they're not so unusual or remarkable, except, perhaps, for that rogue, Valetudo. "It's also likely Jupiter's smallest-known moon, being less than 1km (0.6 of a mile) in diameter".

It doesn't behave like the other moons, which tend to fall into a few categories. 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.

Nine of the newly discovered moons have retrograde orbits, meaning that they orbit in the opposite direction of the planet's spin.

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Nine of the new moons are in a group of more distant moons in prograde orbits. They make the circulation less than one year.

Tentatively named Valetudo, after the Roman goddess of health and cleanliness, and great-granddaughter of Jupiter, the moon is more distant and more inclined than the group of inner prograde moons. That tilt has the weird little moon crossing the paths of those outer retrograde moons. For the other 11 moons, Sheppard said they might let the public help out. "Head-on collisions are likely to happen in that situation".

Even more, Valetudo is very freakish, according to the scientists. 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. The new ones were found because technology has gotten better and better over the years.

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