By Jove! Astroboffins spot 12 new spanking moons around Jupiter

Now it has 79 satellites, and one is a tiny 'oddball'


Jupiter already had the most moons in the Solar System, but now scientists have discovered twelve new ones bringing the total up to 79.

They were first spotted last year by a team of astronomers originally on the hunt for the elusive Planet Nine, a hypothetical body speculated to exist beyond Neptune. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the hypothesized planet using the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American in Chile, but they did manage to unearth a treasure trove of new satellites around our largest planet.

“Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant Solar System objects, so we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our Solar System,” said Scott Sheppard, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science, a private, nonprofit organisation based in Washington, D.C.

The twelve moons have been broadly clustered into three groups. Nine of them have retrograde orbits, going in the opposite direction to Jupiter’s spin. Two of them go round in a prograde motion, in the same direction to Jupiter’s spin. And one of them has a very strange trip around the planet, leading it to be dubbed an “oddball”.

jupiter_lightning

Juno finds some lightning on Jupiter is the polar opposite to bolts here on Earth

READ MORE

“Our other discovery is a real oddball and has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon,” Sheppard said. “It’s also likely Jupiter’s smallest known moon, being less than one kilometer in diameter”.

It has an angled prograde orbit that takes about a year and a half to complete. The retrograde set of moons take about two years to complete a lap around Jupiter, and the prograde ones take under a year. Since it’s more distant than the other prograde moons, the oddball crosses the path of outer retrograde moons.

“This is an unstable situation,” said Sheppard. “Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust.”

jupiter_new_moons

Diagram of the new moons split into different groups. Image credit: Roberto Molar-Candanosa, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science.

The researchers believe the oddball may be a leftover fragment from a larger prograde moon that split apart from repeated collisions. They have proposed to call the new moon Valetudo, named after the great-grandaughter of the Roman god Jupiter, the goddess of health and hygiene. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022