A dozen new moons have been discovered orbiting Jupiter. The new discovery brings the total number of moons around this incredible planet to a whopping 79 – the most of any planet in the solar system. Astronomers stumbled across the tiny satellites while searching for a possible massive planet beyond Pluto known as Planet X. They said the space rocks were created when three larger bodies that once orbited the planet were obliterated into smaller chunks by collisions with asteroids.
In Washington, DC, the researchers, from the Carnegie Institution for Science picked out one of the 12 moons as an ‘oddball’. They said this ‘oddball’ has such a unique orbit that it is at risk of smashing into the other moons – a cosmic collision that could risk wiping the space rocks out.
The leader of the team, Dr. Scott Sheppard said: ‘It’s a real oddball. It has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon. It is also likely Jupiter’s smallest known moon, being less than one kilometer [0.6 miles] in diameter.’ The team discovered 12 new Jovian moons, ten of which were never-before-seen objects, while a further two had been spotted previously by scientists. The chance find brings the gas giant’s tally of moons to 79 – 17 more than Saturn, the planet with the second most orbiting moons in the solar system.