Jupiter has 12 more moons, scientists found while looking for Planet X

The orbits of Jupiter's moons

Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the total to 79.

Researchers in the USA were on the hunt for a proposed ninth planet that is thought to exist far beyond the orbit of Neptune and Pluto, the two most distant celestial bodies in our solar system.

Researchers in the USA 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.

Because of how many observations it takes to determine an object in space is actually in orbit around Jupiter, it took about a year to confirm that these were, indeed, new Jovian moons.

The oddball is also the smallest of the moons that Sheppard and his colleagues found, just 1 kilometer across.

The 12 newly surveyed moons of Jupiter include two inner prograde orbits (blue), nine outer retrograde orbits (red), and one odd outer prograde (green).

Even more, Valetudo is very freaky, according to the scientists.

Astronomers have announced the discovery of 10 more moons of Jupiter, including one "oddball" that appears destined to crash into other satellites sharing its orbital highway.

The nine retrograde moons recently found in Jupiter's orbit go around the planet in roughly two years.

Jupiter, it's safe to say, is one of the marvels of our solar system.

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Astrophysicists believe that these small moons, which are clustered in three bands, are the remnants of three massive moons which were broken apart by collisions with other bodies in space. Sheppard is an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution for Science. "Maybe there will have to be a new definition for the smaller moons". Nine of the new moons are clustered in the outer swarm of Jupiter's moons and have roughly 2-year-long retrograde orbits, meaning they're going the opposite direction of the planet's rotation.

Such collisions would have been very common earlier in Jupiter's history, when most of the moons were still forming from the gas and dust surrounding the young planet.

It takes around 18 months to orbit Jupiter, and its orbit passes that of the retrograde moons, which makes collisions pretty likely.

The twelfth moon has already earned a proposed name, despite being only about two-thirds of a mile in diameter. They named it Valetudo, after a daughter of Jupiter and the Roman goddess of hygiene and personal health.

Until now, there were only four known prograde moons orbiting Jupiter.

The unfortunate reality of this moon, however, is its eventual demise, due to its irregular orbit. 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.

Jupiter's moons are arranged in a specific pattern that the giant planet has worked out over time.

If these raw materials had still been present when Jupiter's first moons collided to form its current clusters, the drag exerted on the smaller ones would have made them spiral inwards. There are two moons close to the planet that are spinning in the same direction.

The discovery of these moons came from a totally different search for new solar system bodies.

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