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Home / Science / View from Mars Hill: Search for Jupiter's Moons | Local

View from Mars Hill: Search for Jupiter's Moons | Local



Four years ago and eight years ago, Clyde Tombaugh spawned a new planet on this continent (apology to Abraham Lincoln in many ways, including the fact that he was absent for a year). The name of the planet was Pluto and its discovery culminated in the search for Percival Lowell for Planet X – a theoretical new member of our solar system. Last week, a team of astronomers, including NAU's Chad Trujillo, announced their own surprising discovery while doing a modern Planet X search. They found no planet (yet!), But a dozen previously undiscovered moons around Jupiter.

The story of this discovery dates back to 201

4, when the team led by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science discovered a small body in the outer reaches of the solar system. Called VP113 in 2012, its orbit is not only the farthest object in the solar system, but also resembles some other outer solar system bodies. This prompted Sheppard and his team to assume that a large, previously undiscovered planet lurked somewhere out there (or should we say shepparding?) These body-like orbits.

The team began searching for this seemingly disturbing body, "Planet X," much as Lowell began searching for a planet X in 1905, searching for an object that seemed to disturb the planet Uranus.

By 2017, Jupiter happened to be in the same sky as the team was looking for the planet. The team members decided to use this proximity and search for new Jupiter satellites. Trujillo, an assistant professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at NAU, says, "The search for the Jupiter moons was led by Scott Sheppard and Carnegie and was a great way to use some of our telescope times at a time of the night using Planet X surveying fields not available. "

This page attraction search proved successful. Based on observations made by the Inter-American Observatory Cerro Tololo in Chile, the team has discovered a dozen new moons. For Trujillo, he measured their positions and examined sequence images of several moons, which were necessary to confirm their identity. Some of these recordings were made with Lowell Observatory's Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) under the direction of Lowell's Audrey Thirouin and Nick Moskovitz. Trujillo says, "Our partnership with Lowell at the DCT is important, and access to it allows us to quickly track new discoveries, which is important for things like these new Jupiter moons, whose orbits are initially very uncertain."

The new bodies will help astronomers to refine their understanding of the Jupiter system. "Thirouin says," By studying these and perhaps discovering more (stay tuned!), We can understand when, where, and how they formed into moons.

The team has The first moons first fall into three categories: The first consists of nine moons, which are about 15 million miles from Jupiter and move in the opposite direction to the rotation of Jupiter around its axis (this is called retrograde Movement) These could be remnants of three major moons that have smashed into other bodies such as asteroids, comets or other moons.

The second group includes two moons closer to Jupiter and O rbit in the same direction as Jupiter's rotation (prograde motion), they circle Jupiter in less than a year and are probably the remnants of a larger moon that broke apart.

The third group has a single member, a peculiar moon whose orbit is Bizarre from any other Jupiter satellite, it is called Valetudo, after the Roman goddess of health and Jupiter Great Granddaughter Valetudo shows a progressive movement but is farther away and moves at a different angle than the other prograde Jupiter moons. Like a car driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street, it could eventually intersect with the outer retrograde moons and collide with them. It is probably less than half a mile wide, making it Jupiter's smallest moon. This raises the question of how small an object can be and still be considered a moon, but that is a discussion for another day.

For the time being, Jupiter's confirmed lunar census is to 79, well above the other planets: Saturn (61), Uranus (27) Neptune (14), Mars (two), Earth (one) and Mercury and Venus (none). And let's not forget Pluto, the result of the first Planet X search, which has now counted five moons.


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