Key Takeaways

  • Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, bringing the total count to a record-breaking 92, surpassing Saturn’s 83 confirmed moons.
  • The moons were discovered using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile in 2021 and 2022, and their orbits were confirmed through follow-up observations.
  • The newly discovered moons range in size from 0.6 miles to 2 miles.
  • Jupiter’s upcoming missions, such as the European Space Agency’s spacecraft and NASA’s Europa Clipper, aim to study the planet and its largest moons.
  • Jupiter and Saturn have numerous small moons that are likely fragments from previous collisions, while Uranus and Neptune also have moons but are harder to observe due to their distance.

Astronomers have made a remarkable discovery, unveiling the existence of 12 previously unknown moons orbiting Jupiter. This new finding propels the total number of known moons around the gas giant to an unprecedented 92, surpassing Saturn’s count of 83 confirmed moons. Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution, a member of the team behind the discovery, revealed that the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center recently added these new Jupiter moons to its list.

The detection of these 12 moons was made possible through the utilization of telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile during the years 2021 and 2022. Subsequent observations verified their orbits, cementing their status as legitimate satellites of Jupiter. According to Sheppard, the sizes of these newly identified moons range from 0.6 miles to 2 miles in diameter.

With enthusiasm for further exploration, Sheppard expressed the desire to capture close-up images of these outer moons in the near future. By doing so, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of their origins. Promising missions are already in the pipeline to study Jupiter and its significant icy moons. The European Space Agency plans to dispatch a spacecraft to the gas giant in April, while NASA is scheduled to launch the Europa Clipper next year, targeting an in-depth exploration of Jupiter’s namesake moon, which scientists suspect may possess a subsurface ocean beneath its icy shell.

Sheppard, a seasoned astronomer who has been involved in the discovery of 70 moons around Jupiter and Saturn combined, anticipates that more moons will be added to the growing roster of both gas giants. Jupiter and Saturn are known to host numerous small moons, believed to be remnants of larger moons that either collided with each other or with comets and asteroids. Similarly, Uranus and Neptune possess moons, but their remote distance makes spotting them considerably more challenging.

As for the other planets in our solar system, Uranus has 27 confirmed moons, Neptune boasts 14, Mars has two, and Earth has one. Venus and Mercury, on the other hand, lack any natural satellites. While the newly discovered moons around Jupiter await official names, Sheppard mentioned that only half of them meet the size criterion of at least 1 mile to warrant a formal designation. The four largest moons of Jupiter are already known as the Galilean satellites, named after the famed astronomer Galileo Galilei, who was the first to observe them.

Jupiter and its moons recently made their closest approach to Earth in over six decades in September of last year. Moreover, a recent significant study uncovered unexpected patterns in the temperature fluctuations within Jupiter’s belts and zones, shedding new light on the dynamic nature of the gas giant.

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