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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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Jupiter’s Moon, Europa Covered In Thick Snow: NASA

NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper in the 2020s.

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Jupiter, Europa, NASA
Ice blades cover Jupiter's moon Europa: Study. Pixabay

Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa is probably covered with blades of ice up to 15 meters tall in its equatorial regions, making alien life search difficult, NASA researchers have found.

The potentially life-supporting Europa has been studied by NASA, whose work has become more difficult due to the ice towers, Xinhua news agency reported.

Europa, Jupiter, NASA
Europa (Moon) · Artist’s concept of Europa and Jupiter , NASA

“Clearly, the paper suggests very strongly that the tropics of Europa are going to be spiky, and it would be unwise to plan to land there without a specially adapted lander,” said Dan Hobley, lead author of the study and a lecturer in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University.

Jagged ice towers could also be found on Earth, especially in high, dry and cold tropical regions like the Chilean Andes. These ice towers are named “penitentes”, Spanish for “penitent”, because they often look like people kneeling in penance.

Scientists found that penitentes on Europa could be up to 15 meters tall, spaced about seven meters apart, while on Earth their height usually ranges from one to five meters.

Europa, Jupiter, NASA
These ice towers are named “penitentes”, Spanish for “penitent. IANS

 

“The Europa penitentes grow much slower than the Earth examples, but on Earth they might be restricted to a season or maybe two until they melt in summer or get covered in more snow, but on Europa, they are sat out in the sun growing for 50 million years,” Hobley explained.

Also Read: A Dozen New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter

NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper in the 2020s.

At a cost of $2 billion, the mission will “perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon from a long, looping orbit around Jupiter”, assess the possible landing site on Europa and try to seek out signs of life on the moon. (IANS)