HONOLULU (KHON2) — Jupiter is our solar system’s largest planet. Now, we know that it has the solar system’s largest collection of confirmed moons, 92.
For a while, astronomers believed Saturn to have the most moons with 83 but now, twelve more moons have been discovered orbiting Jupiter.
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These newly discovered moons were observed in Hawai’i and Chile in 2021 and 2022, and follow-up observations confirmed the findings. They are fairly small ranging in size from 0.6 miles to two miles in diameter.
“I hope we can image one of these outer moons close-up in the near future to better determine their origins,” said Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution, who was part of the team at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center which made the observations.
Shepard is the same researcher who observed several of Saturn’s moons for the first time a few years ago. He has thus far helped to discover a total of 70 moons in his work.
Shepard and his team believe that many of Saturn’s and Jupiter’s moons are possibly smaller fragments of larger moons, comets or asteroids that once collided with one another and broke apart.
Shepard also pointed out that Uranus, which has 27 confirmed moons, and Neptune, with 14 confirmed moons, may have the same reasons for their moons but that moon observations and discoveries for these planets are much more difficult due to their distance from the inner solar system.
In order for moons to receive a name, they must be at least one mile in diameter, so, the newly observed moons have yet to be named.
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The European Space Agency is working on sending a spacecraft in April to make observations on Jupiter along with some of its largest moons. NASA is also sending the Europa spacecraft to get more data on Jupiter’s Europa moon which astronomers believe may have an ocean underneath its icy, frozen crust.