Sci-tech

Jupiter has an "oddball" moon and we can relate

Jupiter has an

Measuring less than a mile in diameter, it's the smallest of Jupiter's known moons, and Sheppard describes it as an "oddball". However, astronomers just discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, and one of them is very weird. It took them a year to confirm the existence of the new moons around Jupiter.

The Carnegie Institution team, led by Scott Sheppard, didn't set out to find even a single new Jovian moon.

The team first observed the new moons in 2017 with the 4-meter Blanco telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Nine of the new moons are part of a distant outer swarm of moons that orbit it in the retrograde, or opposite direction of Jupiter's spin rotation. The retrograde moons take roughly two years to orbit the planet.

"With the discovery of Valetudo, it seems the collisions that broke apart the retrograde moons were between other prograde Jupiter moons, like Valetudo", Sheppard told ScienceAlert. "New cameras allow us to cover the whole space around Jupiter in a few images, and this camera is well-shaded", Sheppard said. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust", Dr. Sheppard said.

It took a year for their orbits to be confirmed with a series of other telescopes in the United States and Chile.

The team believes Valetudo might be a fragment of a larger moon, broken off in a collision with a larger retrograde moon, resulting in something like the retrograde groupings observed. Jupiter was in the same part of the sky, so they were able to hunt for moons as well. On the other hand, among these, there is the smallest moon of Jupiter found to date, Valetudo, named after the daughter of Jupiter and the goddess of hygiene in the Roman mythology.

More news: Boris Johnson keeps powder dry - for now

Sheppard and his team hope to further explore what could've caused these moons to form in order to get a better understanding of how the planet itself formed - and ultimately, more about how the rest of our galaxy came to be. Scientists reasoned that these small moons orbiting Jupiter were usually hard to detect in the bright light space around Jupiter using the yesteryear technology and there would be always a doubt that whether the orbiting one is moon or asteroid. They knew that the solar system's largest planet was going to be bright and hanging in the sky all night. That meant the entire process took a full year.

Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones. It's believed that numerous tiny moons around Jupiter were once much larger, having broken up over time due to the stress of gravity or perhaps even collisions with each other, resulting in the smaller objects we see today.

The oddball could be the last remaining remnant of a once-larger moon that gave rise to the retrograde retinue during previous smash-ups.

But one of the newly discovered moons - and the strangest - offers a fresh clue.

Jupiter's orbital family has just rapidly expanded, with scientists today announcing the discovery of 10 new miniature moons around the gas giant. Because they are most likely clues to the origins of the planet itself.

All the newly identified moons are relatively small, ranging in size from about six-tenths of a 1km to 4km.