Planet has most in solar system after 12 discoveries

There is a new lunar king in our solar system, as 12 new moons have been discovered around Jupiter, making it the planet with the most moons.

Jupiter is already the largest planet in our solar system, but it previously had the second most moons with 80, behind Saturn with 83.

Astronomers using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile in 2021 and 2022 were able to spot newly discovered moons and report them to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Astronomers then tracked the sightings to make sure the moons orbit the planet, which was recently confirmed.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who was part of the discovery team, posted the results online.

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What do Jupiter’s newly discovered moons look like?

Sheppard told The Associated Press that moons range in size from 0.6 miles to 2 miles, but only half of them are big enough — at least a mile — to have a name.

The moons also take much longer than ours to orbit its planet. Sky and Telescope reported that all of the newly discovered moons take more than 340 days to orbit Jupiter, and nine of them take at least 550 days. By comparison, our moon takes about 27 days to orbit Earth, according to NASA.

How many moons does each planet have?

The newly discovered moons give Jupiter 92 moons in total, the most of any planet in the solar system. Counting new moons, here’s how many moons each planet has, according to NASA (which hasn’t officially acknowledged Jupiter’s new moons):

  • Mercury: 0
  • Venus: 0
  • Earth: 1
  • March: 2
  • Jupiter: 92
  • Saturn: 83
  • Uranus: 27
  • Neptune: 14

Sheppard, who has been involved in past lunar observations of Jupiter and Saturn, believes there are moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn that have yet to be discovered. He said both planets have small moons that were once larger moons that collided with space debris like asteroids.

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Missions to the moons of Jupiter

The confirmed discovery of the moons comes as space agencies prepare to observe the planet and its moons.

The European Space Agency will launch its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, in April to observe the planet and its three large ocean-bearing moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – with the aim of characterizing the moons “both as planetary objects and possible habitats.

In October 2024, NASA plans to send its Europa Clipper orbiter to observe the planet and its moon, Europa. The moon is thought to be composed mostly of water ice and contains twice as much water as Earth, with evidence that an ocean of water or melting ice lies below the surface. The aim will be to see if the Europa could be suitable for life.

Contributor: Marcia Dunn, Associated Press

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

USA Today

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