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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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Jupiter
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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NASA’s Ralph Will Explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids In 2021

Ralph's infrared detectors are 2,000 pixels square, compared to New Horizons Ralph's 256 by 256, allowing for images with more detail.

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Wintertime ice growth in Arctic sea slows long-term decline: NASA. Flcikr

 NASA’s Ralph, one of the most well-travelled scientific instrument, is set to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids aboard the Lucy spacecraft in 2021, the US space agency said.

Ralph has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.

In 2021, the Lucy spacecraft will carry a near-twin of Ralph, called L’Ralph (“Lucy Ralph”), to investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the early days of the solar system, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Jupiter. Pixabay

The L’Ralph instrument suite will study this diverse group of bodies. Lucy will fly by six Trojans and one Main Belt asteroid, more than any other previous asteroid mission.

L’Ralph will detect the Trojan asteroids’ chemical fingerprints, the statement said.

L’Ralph allows scientists to interpret data provided by the Sun’s reflected light that are the fingerprints of different elements and compounds.

These data could provide clues about how organic molecules form in primitive bodies, a process that might also have led to the emergence of life on Earth.

L’Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
L’Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.Flickr

Its instrument suite contains the Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), both of which are fed by the same optics, meaning that Ralph can observe both visible and infrared wavelengths.

These dual capabilities are what makes Ralph and its cousin L’Ralph so special, according to Dennis Reuter, the instrument principal investigator for L’Ralph.

“Most instruments can image visible or infrared wavelengths, but L’Ralph can do both,” said Reuter.

Also Read: Mars Curiosity Rover Returns Back To Work: NASA

Compared to the Ralph that flies with New Horizons, Lucy’s L’Ralph has enhanced technology. It can detect a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, it has a moving mirror that reflects light into L’Ralph instead of requiring movements of the entire spacecraft.

Ralph’s infrared detectors are 2,000 pixels square, compared to New Horizons Ralph’s 256 by 256, allowing for images with more detail. (IANS)