Due to its size relative to other planets in our solar system, Jupiter already holds the title of king of the planets. And as of late, the gas giant also possesses the most well-known moons.
Twelve more moons around Jupiter have been discovered by astronomers, bringing the total number of known moons around Jupiter to 92.
The discovery was made while astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science and his group were conducting observations.
In September 2021, they made use of the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, and in August 2022, they made use of the Dark Energy Camera mounted on the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. Finding dim objects in the sky is possible using the Dark Energy Camera.
Jupiter and its natural satellites were aligned with more distant objectives in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of ice objects circling the sun past Neptune’s orbit at the limit of the solar system, that Sheppard and his team have been looking for.
While our primary survey is focused on finding planets in the outer solar system beyond Pluto, Sheppard explained that we have been accidently searching for new moons orbiting Jupiter.
Due to the fact that everything near Jupiter would be moving at the same speed as the gas giant, the team was able to distinguish between Jupiter and the things in its immediate vicinity and objects in the furthest reaches of the solar system.
The speed at which Jupiter is travelling prevents distant solar system objects from moving as swiftly. The scientists used the Chilean Magellan Telescope to complete follow-up studies for the 12 new moons, which took nearly a year to confirm.
The Minor Planet Center will give each moon a number in the upcoming months, but given their discovery was only recently announced, none of the moons yet have names.
The Small Planet Center keeps tabs on the whereabouts of asteroids, comets, and minor planets. The group is in charge of identifying, designating, and calculating the orbits of these celestial objects under the authority of the International Astronomical Union.
Half of these new moon discoveries are larger than the threshold for naming permitted by the International Astronomical Union, which is 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers), thus names will be given to them, according to Sheppard.
discovering new moons
As a result of Jupiter’s brightness, astronomers have had to contend with the problem of glare and dispersed light influencing the area where moons can exist.
Jupiter and its surroundings are becoming simpler to study in greater detail thanks to technology.
Sheppard and his team are tracking “many, many more moons around Jupiter,” but they require additional observations to validate and publicize their findings.
Future expeditions may be able to find more moons orbiting Jupiter if their orbits are discovered. During this decade, Jupiter and some of its moons will be visited by the NASA Europa Clipper mission and the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer.
Furthermore, the missions may be able to pass by the recently discovered moons on their way. Only after these spacecraft enter Jupiter’s gravitational field will they be able to go to the outer moons, according to Sheppard.
“If we locate enough, we’re hoping one of them will just chance to be in the right place for the spacecraft’s trajectory to have a close-up look at it.
These outer moons are crucial to comprehend because they are the final survivors of the population of objects that developed in the vicinity of the huge planets when the rest of the material was assimilating into the planets.
Our solar system’s largest planets are located in this region, which is presently empty because the planets ate up all of the material there during their formation.
Sheppard and his team think that these moons are the remains of at least seven bigger moons that disintegrated in collisions with other moons, asteroids, or comets. Sheppard claimed that the splitting of these moons produced hundreds of new, smaller moons.
Explore where the search for life is taking place throughout our solar system in this interactive map. The moons are the remains of what was once present in the disk of gas and dust that surrounded Jupiter after the planet formed, capturing and drawing the majority of the material into Jupiter’s orbit.
These fundamental elements of planets can open a window into the formation of the solar system.
Finding moons around the large planets in our solar system is a specialty of Sheppard’s team.
By way of email, he stated, “In total, we have contributed to 70 moon discoveries around Jupiter. The other planets have seen 43 discoveries, two at Uranus, and one at Neptune.
Uranus has 27, Neptune has 14, while Saturn has 83 moons.
Numerous extra moons are being tracked by the scientists as well, but because Saturn is so far away from Earth, it is more difficult to find them.
We think there are many small moons surrounding both Uranus and Neptune, but because of how far away both planets are, it is even more difficult to find such moons, according to Sheppard.