Astronomers have identified a record-breaking 92 moons around Jupiter, surpassing all other planets in our solar system.
Discovered using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, these new moons were confirmed through subsequent observations.
Ranging from 0.6 to 2 miles in size, these moons offer intriguing prospects for further study.
Future missions by the European Space Agency and NASA are set to explore Jupiter and its significant moons, including Europa.
Jupiter, along with Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, hosts an array of small moons believed to be remnants of larger celestial bodies.
Astronomers have achieved a remarkable feat by identifying a staggering 92 moons orbiting Jupiter, securing its position as the planet with the most known moons in our solar system. This newfound total surpasses the previous record holder, Saturn, which boasts 83 confirmed moons.
The recent additions to Jupiter’s lunar family were cataloged by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Discovered using advanced telescopes in Hawaii and Chile during 2021 and 2022, the orbits of these moons were subsequently confirmed through follow-up observations. The newly found moons vary in size, ranging from 0.6 to 2 miles in diameter, offering a rich field for further investigation.
Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution, a member of the discovery team, expressed hope for a close-up imaging of these outer moons in the near future, which could shed light on their origins. Exciting missions are on the horizon: the European Space Agency is set to dispatch a spacecraft to Jupiter in April to study the planet and its sizable, icy moons. Following this, NASA will launch the Europa Clipper next year, dedicated to exploring Jupiter’s moon of the same name. This celestial body is of particular interest due to the potential presence of an ocean beneath its frozen surface.
Scott Sheppard, a key contributor to this discovery, anticipates continued additions to the counts of moons around both Jupiter and Saturn. These gas giants are known to host numerous small moons, believed to be remnants of once larger celestial bodies that collided with comets, asteroids, or each other.
While Uranus and Neptune also possess such moons, their distance from Earth makes them more challenging to observe. In contrast, Uranus has 27 confirmed moons, Neptune has 14, Mars has two, and Earth has one. Notably, Venus and Mercury lack confirmed moons. As for the freshly discovered moons around Jupiter, they are yet to be named, with only half meeting the size criteria (at least 1 mile) for such designation.
The four largest moons of Jupiter are collectively known as the Galilean satellites, a tribute to Galileo Galilei, who first observed them. In a significant astronomical event last September, Jupiter and its moons made their closest approach to Earth in six decades, offering a rare and captivating sight for observers.