Jupiter is renowned for having more moons than any other planet, proudly sporting a known sixty-seven orbiting bodies, with over a third of the moons we have discovered to date.

Recently, astronomers have discovered twelve new moons circling Jupiter to add to its already impressive collection. These new natural satellites are relatively small, measuring a mere few miles across, which is why they haven’t been found until now. Discovered by Scott Sheppard and his team at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, the new moons were found using a 520-mexapixel dark energy camera attached to Blanco 4-metre telescope in Chile. The collection of new moons has been found to include one with some rather strange habits!

The majority of the newly discovered moons travel in a two-year retrograde circuit around Jupiter. They are thought to have been formed from collisions between large parent bodies and asteroids/comets. The next couple of moons mirror the direction of Jupiter’s rotation, however much closer to the planet. These moons are thought to have been made by a different process – the breakup of a single larger moon. The final moon is somewhat of an oddball, orbiting in progade and crossing the paths of several other moons. Sheppard described the moon as ‘driving down the highway in the wrong direction’ and adding that head-on collisions were likely to occur.

This dissident moon will be named after the Roman god Jupiter’s great-granddaughter, Valetudo, which also means ‘anything goes’ in Portuguese and is a form of high-contact martial arts.

Students applying to study Physics might wish to investigate Jupiter’s other moons and the new forms of technology that allow astronomers to spot new objects in space that were previously un-observable.

More Resources