Astronomers have discovered a dozen new moons orbiting Jupiter, including one “oddball” in an orbit that eventually could lead to a head-on collision. Image: Carnegie Institution for Science
Astronomers peering into the depths of the solar system in search of a presumed ninth planet far beyond Pluto happened to be looking past Jupiter during their observations and happened to discovery 12 new moons orbiting the giant planet.
“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,” said the Carnegie Institution’s Scott Sheppard.
A team led by Sheppard initially spotted the moons in 2017 while scanning the outer solar system in search of “Planet X,” a hypothesised world thought to be responsible for the observed orbits of several bodies in the remote Kuiper Belt. In 2014,
Sheppard, Dave Tholen of the University of Hawaii and Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University discovered the most distant known solar system body and were among the first to consider the possibility of a massive, ...