Associated PressLocal

Jupiter’s moon count reaches 79, including tiny ‘oddball’

NEW YORK (AP) — Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones.

The latest discovery of a dozen small moons brings the total to 79, the most of any planet in our solar system.

Scientists were looking for objects on the fringes of the solar system last year when they pointed their telescopes close to Jupiter’s backyard, according to Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington. They saw a new group of objects moving around the giant gas planet but didn’t know whether they were moons or asteroids passing near Jupiter.

“There was no eureka moment,” said Sheppard, who led the team of astronomers. “It took a year to figure out what these objects were.”

They all turned out to be moons of Jupiter. The confirmation of 10 was announced Tuesday. Two were confirmed earlier.

The moons had not been spotted before because they are tiny. They are about one to two kilometers (miles) across, said astronomer Gareth Williams of the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

And he thinks Jupiter might have even more moons just as small waiting to be found.

“We just haven’t observed them enough,” said Williams, who helped confirm the moons’ orbits.

The team is calling one of the new moons an ‘oddball’ because of its unusual orbit. Sheppard’s girlfriend came up with a name for it: Valetudo, the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter.

Valetudo is in Jupiter’s distant, outer swarm of moons that circles in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation. Yet it’s orbiting in the same direction as the planet, against the swarm’s traffic.

“This moon is going down the highway the wrong way,” Sheppard said.

Scientists believe moons like Valetudo and its siblings appeared soon after Jupiter formed. The planet must have acted like a vacuum, sucking up all the material that was around it. Some of that debris was captured as moons.

“What astonishes me about these moons is that they’re the remnants of what the planet formed from,” he said.

Telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona were used for the latest discovery and confirmation.

Galileo detected Jupiter’s four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in 1610. The latest count of 79 known planets includes eight that have not been seen for several years. Saturn is next with 61, followed by Uranus with 27 and Neptune with 14. Mars has two, Earth has one and Mercury and Venus have none.

___

Follow Emiliano Rodriguez Mega on Twitter: @mapache_rm

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Content Sponsored By:
Alto Landscaping 728×90
Glennas Pest Control 728×90
May Marketing 728×90
Tags
OneChiro 728×90
Alto Landscaping 728×90
Diamond Realty 728×90
Bayou State Roofing 728×90
Glennas Pest Control 728×90
Citizen’s National Bank 728×90
RGM Marketing 728×90
Swoop 728×90
Pel-State Leaderboard 728×90
Greenstar Insulation 728×90
LA Home Center 728×90
BizProSBC
RSHV – 728×90 Banner
May Marketing 728×90

ap_press

The Associated Press (AP) is an American multinational not-for-profit news agency headquartered in New York City that operates as a cooperative, unincorporated association. The AP is owned by its contributing newspapers and radio and television stations in the United States, all of which contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists. Wikipedia

Related Articles

Loading...
Back to top button
Close
Close