The main task of Dr. Sheppard's team is searching for Planet Nine, a hypothesized planet far beyond Neptune that appears to be jostling objects at the edge of the solar system.
Jupiter's 79 known moons are the most of any planet in the solar system, followed by the 62 identified around the giant ringed gas planet Saturn. But, the faith had other plans for the scientists and exposed 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter to them.
Sheppard's team typically hunts for objects in the very distant Solar System, out beyond Pluto, and sometimes spots planetary moons during these searches. "It's also likely Jupiter's smallest known moon, being less than one kilometre (0.62 miles) in diameter". The retrograde moons take roughly two years to orbit the planet. "Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust".
As part of that search, Sheppard was using the 4-meter Víctor Blanco Telescope in Chile in March of past year and realized that Jupiter was right near the part of the sky he wanted to search.
"It takes several observations to confirm an object actually orbits around Jupiter", Williams said.
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But the discovery might be short-lived because Valetudo faces destruction in head-on collisions.
Here are the 4 largest Galilean moons of Jupiter - Callisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede, which can be easily seen from Earth. They named it Valetudo, after a daughter of Jupiter and the Roman goddess of hygiene and personal health. Because the planet is so big and bright, researchers surmised that unrecorded moons could be faint, or even obscured, or quite far from the gas giant.
Scott Sheppard: "We believe these objects were probably captured by Jupiter a long time ago and they are grouped in their orbits". They knew that the solar system's largest planet was going to be bright and hanging in the sky all night.
Not only that, but when the orbital characteristics (shape, tilt, and so on) are compared, these nine retrograde moons seem to fall into three groups; that implies that each group used to be a single moon that got smashed somehow, possibly a collision with another moon-sized body. It takes them about two Earth years to orbit the planet.
The twelve moons have been broadly clustered into three groups. It moved in the prograde motion together with Jupiter and then collided with another object, causing the smaller retrograde-moving moons. This hypothetical large prograde moon may also have formed some retrograde moon groupings.
Because it travels in the complete opposite direction as the rest of the neighborhood, this tiny moon is particularly vulnerable to collisions and stands a good chance of being obliterated in the future by an impact with a retrograde moon. Their existence shows that they were likely formed after this gas and dust dissipated.