Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, has recently regained its title as the planet with the most moons, dethroning Saturn. This announcement was made by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which confirmed that Jupiter now has 92 confirmed moons orbiting around it, 12 of which were newly discovered by a team of astronomers.
The team was led by Scott S. Sheppard, an astronomer from the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, who has a proven track record in hunting for moons around Jupiter and Saturn. Using deep surveys and advanced technology, Sheppard and his team were able to detect faint objects that were previously unseen and confirm their status as moons of Jupiter.
The new moons, unlike the well-known Galilean moons that were discovered in 1610, are much smaller, with diameters of less than 2 miles (3 kilometers), and have much longer orbits that take hundreds of days, often amounting to one or two Earth years, to complete. It’s believed that these smaller, distant satellites were either captured by Jupiter later on or could be the remnants of collisions, as opposed to the Galilean moons, which are thought to have formed from the same material as Jupiter.
Determining the orbits of these small moons is a complex process that requires extensive observations and patience, as the faint objects are difficult to detect and track. Nonetheless, the discovery of these new moons, and others around the giant outer planets, has increased dramatically in recent years, thanks to the advancements in technology that have made it possible to find faint objects that move against the background stars.
There’s still much more to be discovered in our solar system, and the race between Jupiter and Saturn for the title of the planet with the most moons is far from over. The discovery of these new moons provides us with new insights into the solar system and the dynamics of planet formation and evolution. It’s an exciting time to be an astronomer, as there’s still much to be learned about our corner of the universe.