One of Jupiter's Newly Discovered Moons Is Doing Something Really Weird

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 - 11:45AM
Science News
Astronomy
Wednesday, 18 July 2018 - 11:45AM
One of Jupiter's Newly Discovered Moons Is Doing Something Really Weird
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Image Credit: NASA/Public Domain
If we were to host a system-wide beauty contest among the planets and accepted natural satellites as a valid skill, Jupiter would have a pretty unfair advantage. Nothing against Earth's beautiful Luna, but according to The Verge the number of confirmed moons around Jupiter is now up to 79, thanks to ten – or 12, depending on who's counting and how – recent confirmations by the International Astronomical Union.

The moons were first discovered along with two others early in 2017 by astronomers at Carnegie Institute for Science who were looking for objects beyond Pluto. The moons are small compared to our own and compared to others that orbit Jupiter, with diameters ranging between less than a mile and two miles wide. According to the data, the 12 Jovian moons are divided into two main groups. There are two moons close to the planet that are spinning in the same direction. Further out, there are nine moons that are spinning in the opposite direction. Near those nine is one moon that likes to move to the beat of its own and, like the two closer to Jupiter, has a rotation that mimics its host planet.



"It's basically driving down the highway in the wrong direction," Carnegie astronomer Scott Sheppard told The Verge about the moon, which has been named Valetudo. "That's a very unstable situation. Head-on collisions are likely to happen in that situation." There is one other moon orbiting Jupiter that has the same rotation, but Valetudo orbits further away from the planet so its unorthodox movement is more baffling. It's also probably the smallest moon that Jupiter has, according to Sheppard. Other than that, not much is known about it or the other confirmed moons. "The only thing that we know at the moment are the orbits and the approximate size," International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center director Gareth Williams told The Washington Post

Sheppard adds that the moons may be leftovers from early solar system objects.

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By looking at these outer moons we can get an insight into what the objects were like that ended up forming the planets we see today.
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