We’ve got a nice little moon orbiting Earth, haven’t we? It affects the ocean’s tides and, more importantly, also helps us understand how to eat a Jaffa Cake. Some of us have even been to visit him! Great stuff.
Well, it turns out Jupiter’s got several of the fellas, with scientists having just found 12 new moons orbiting the planet in a breakthrough discovery.
That also includes one that they’ve referred to an ‘oddball’, which is flying in the opposite direction to many of Jupiter’s other moons and measures just 1km in size.
It behaves slightly differently to the 11 other moons – so much so, in fact, that experts reckon it might be responsible for having smashed up some of the other floating objects that form the moons orbiting Jupiter. Apparently the many objects circling the planet probably came about from collisions earlier in its life, having since been captured by Jupiter.
If the ‘oddball’ guy – set to be named Valetudo after the great-granddaughter of Roman god Jupiter – continues in its destructive ways and has more collisions, scientists think it may even destroy itself.
“This is an unstable situation,” said Scott S Sheppard, who helped lead the team that made the discovery of the 12 new moons.
“Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust.”
Speaking to the Independent, he added: “It is as if the moon is travelling the wrong way down a crowded highway.”
Jupiter’s newly-discovered moons are all less than two miles wide, which may explain why they’ve only just been discovered now. I mean, most of us struggle to find the Lurpak in the fridge each morning, let alone teeny tiny planets in space.
Now that they’ve been accounted for, the total number of objects found orbiting Jupiter has gone up to 79, though scientists believe there could be around 100 in total.
To put that into context, Jupiter’s closest rival in the number-of-things-flying-around-it stakes is Saturn, and Saturn only has 62. Laaaaaaame.
Experts were able to find Jupiter’s tiny objects using extremely sensitive telescopes.
Sheppard continued: “Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant solar system objects, so we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our solar system.”