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A Dozen New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter

Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter have been found -- 11 'normal' outer moons, and one that they're calling an 'oddball.'

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Astronomers Discovers 12 New Moons Orbiting Around Jupiter. (VOA)
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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 the planet.

“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 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.

Jupiter
12 New Moons Discovered Orbiting Jupiter. Pixabay

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.

Also Read-NASA Probes Unveils Stormy Environment of Jupiter’s moon

Galileo detected Jupiter’s four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, in 1610. The latest count of 79 known moons 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. (VOA)

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Astronomers Discover New Planet Not Orbiting Any Star

The planet is thought to be 200 million years old and is 20 light-years from Earth

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This April 3, 2017 image made available by NASA shows the planet Jupiter. A newly discovered planet outside our solar system is 12 times the size of Jupiter. (VOA)

Astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is 12 times the size of Jupiter, striking not only for its size but also for the fact that it is not orbiting any star.

The so-called “rogue” planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space.

Astronomers say there have been only a few rogue planets discovered to date. They say even though finding such celestial objects are rare, there could be large amounts of such planets in the universe that have yet to be discovered.

The so-called "rogue" planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space.
The so-called “rogue” planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space. Pixabay

The recently discovered planetary mass was originally found in 2016 but was mistaken for a brown dwarf planet. According to new research published in the Astrophysical Journal, the object is now thought to be a planet in its own right, with an usually strong magnetic field.

Also Read: NASA Spacecraft Sends Back Close-Ups of Dwarf Planet Ceres

Astronomers say the magnetic field of the new planet, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, is more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s. They say its strong magnetic field likely led to its being detected by a large radio-telescope in New Mexico known as the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA).

The planet is thought to be 200 million years old and is 20 light-years from Earth. (VOA)