By Jove! Astroboffins spot 12 new spanking moons around Jupiter

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The discovery of these moons wasn't planned or intentional. Sheppard realized past year that the team's search zone for a ninth planet overlapped with Jupiter's orbit. That's how many moons astronomers have now identified orbiting the planet Jupiter. Uranus and Neptune are in the row with 27 and 14 moons respectively, according to the current space information. The lost moons were initially sighted in 2003, but scientists could not define their exact orbits and lost track of them.

A graphic released by the Carnegie Institution for Science shows the orbits of the known and newly discovered moons of Jupiter.

"Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant solar system objects", Sheppard explained.

This Hubble telescope image of the giant planet Jupiter reveals the impact sites of two fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The Institution gives the reasoning for these designations in an announcement on the Carnegie Science website.

Why are we just now hearing about it?

"What astonishes me about these moons is that they're the remnants of what the planet formed from", he said.

It took a year for their orbits to be confirmed with a series of other telescopes in the United States and Chile.

The same survey that discovered these 10 also resurveyed two other moons previously discovered by the researchers, who verified the moons' orbital paths. Those 2017 moons were labeled S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1.

Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones. They're thought to have formed after the gas and dust from the earliest stages of planetary formation had dissipated. "That is, it is moving prograde while all the other objects at a similar distance from Jupiter are moving retrograde".

Jupiter's retrograde moons are thought to have spawned from three larger bodies which were destroyed during past violent collisions.

But the "oddball" moon has really excited the astronomers.

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Nine moons are part of the planet's outer swarm of moons, orbiting in retrograde or in the opposite direction of Jupiter's spin rotation.

In terms of what it should be called, one of the leading suggestions has been Valetudo, the goddess of health and hygiene, and the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter.

The final discovery is classified as an "oddball" as it has an orbit unlike any other Jovian moon.

The new moons are small, reports Ben Guarino at The Washington Post, most less than two miles in diameter, a fraction of the size of Jupiter's four inner Galilean moons, one of which is larger than the planet Mercury.

This creates a situation where prograde and retrograde moons are likely to have head-on collisions.

"This moon is going down the highway the wrong way", Sheppard said.

It is not a new fact that Jupiter has dozens of moons.

Most of the prograde moons orbit much closer to the planet than the retrograde moons do. The addition of these 12 brings the total number of moons (that we know of) to a whopping 79.

Well, it probably won't stay at 79 for very long.

Due to their sizes - just one to three kilometers (0.62 to 1.9 miles) in diameter - these moons are more influenced by surrounding gas and dust.