In a new discovery, astronomers spotted 12 new moons around Jupiter, as the total count of the number of moons around the planet reached a record-breaking 92.
With this, Jupiter became the planet with the highest number of moons in our solar system. The one-time planet with the highest number of moons, Saturn, now stands in second place with 83 confirmed moons.
The moons of Jupiter were recently added to the list maintained by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, said Carnegie Institution’s Scott Sheppard, who was part of the team.
The moons were discovered using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile in 2021 and 2022, and the astronomers confirmed their orbits in the follow-up observations.
Sheppard stated that the newly-discovered moons range in size from 0.6 miles to 2 miles (1 kilometre to 3 kilometres).
“I hope we can image one of these outer moons close-up in the near future to better determine their origins,” he stated in an email sent on Friday.
A spacecraft will be sent by the European Space Agency to Jupiter in April to investigate the planet and study some of its biggest and icy moons.
The Europa Clipper will be launched by NASA next year to explore the moon of Jupiter, which is said to harbour an ocean underneath its frozen crust.
Sheppard, who had a few years ago discovered several moons around Saturn, and had participated in discoveries of Jupiter’s 70 moons so far, hopes to keep adding to the lunar tally of the two gas giants.
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Sheppard said that Jupiter and Saturn are filled with small moons which are said to be fragments of the bigger moons which once existed and eventually collided with each other or with asteroids or comets.
The same scenario applies to Neptune and Uranus, however, they are so distant that moon-spotting becomes even harder.
Uranus has till now 27 confirmed moons, Neptune has 14, Mars has two and Earth has one moon. Venus and Mercury have zero moons.
The newly-found moons of Jupiter are yet to be named. Sheppard said that only some of the moons are big enough, at least 1 mile (1.5 kilometres) or so, to be given a name.
(With inputs from agencies)
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