An announcement made by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre on Tuesday stated that 12 new moons of Jupiter were recently discovered by astronomers. This means that the largest planet in the Solar System will now have a total of 79 moons.
The moons were discovered by accident
According to Scott Sheppard, who is a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in D.C., the moons were detected by accident, as his intentions were different than searching for new moons. His team, together with other colleagues from the Northern Arizona University and the University of Hawaii, were actually looking for planets that could possibly be located further than Pluto.
It appears that while hunting for other cosmic objects with their telescopes, the astronomers came across the new moons. The scientists used the Blanco telescope from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, which is able to detect extremely small and faint objects, due to its advanced camera. This made it easier for astronomers to discover the tiny, dim moons around Jupiter. According to Sheppard, the advanced telescope is what allowed the team to locate the moons, as they “were able to go a little bit fainter than anyone has been able to go in the past”.
The differences between Jupiter’s moons
Jupiter’s moons that were known until the present moment orbit close to the planet and travel in exactly the same direction as the giant planet. However, the new Jovian moons are more remote and tinier, with one particular moon being the smallest from those belonging to Jupiter to have ever been discovered. It was named Valetudo by scientists, which comes from the name of one of Jupiter’s daughters.
In the opinion of one astronomer, Gareth Williams, we should expect more such tiny moons to be located in the following decades.