Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, bringing its total count to 92, the most of any in our solar system.
The new finds were first submitted to a list kept by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) between 2021 and 2022. The finds were only officially published later because scientists must track the “moons” full orbit in order to verify they are actually orbiting the planet, according to Space.com.
Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, putting the total count at 92—more moons than any other planet in our solar system. https://t.co/AOlNc7KGaV
— ABC News (@ABC) February 4, 2023
Since the newly discovered moons are small (no bigger than 5 miles in diameter) and situated further away from the planet, it takes them more than 340 days to orbit the gas giant, Sky and Telescope explained. The MPC estimates that nine of the most distant of the moons have orbits that exceed 550 days, Space.com stated. Those moons also have retrograde orbits, meaning they follow a course opposite of Jupiter’s rotation, the outlet reported.
Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington, D.C, was part of the team that observed the moons using telescopes in Hawaii and Chili in 2021 and 2022, ABC News reported.
Sheppard believes that due to the small size of the moons, they were formed after collisions broke them apart into smaller objects, Sky and Telescope noted.
“I hope we can image one of these outer moons close-up in the near future to better determine their origins,” Sheppard wrote ABC News in an email. (RELATED: The World Is About To Get Close-Up HD Images Of Jupiter)
Sheppard, who also discovered new moons around Saturn has been involved in 70 moon discoveries so far around Jupiter and believes the moon count for both gas giants will continue to increase, ABC News reported. Sheppard also believes there are more moons around Uranus and Neptune but their distance from our planet makes observing possible new moons difficult.