The number of moons orbiting Jupiter has increased by 12, bringing the total to a record-breaking 92.
No other planet in our solar system has more than that. With 83 known moons, Saturn, the former leader, comes in a close second.The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has added the Jupiter moons to its roster, according to team member Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution.
In 2021 and 2022, they were found with the aid of telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and subsequent studies confirmed their orbits.Sheppard estimates that the size of these most recent moons is between 0.6 and 2 miles (1 and 3 kilometres).
In April, the European Space Agency is sending a spacecraft to Jupiter to study the planet and some of its biggest, icy moons. And next year, NASA will launch the Europa Clipper to explore Jupiter’s moon of the same name, which could harbor an ocean beneath its frozen crust.
Sheppard—who discovered a slew of moons around Saturn a few years ago and has taken part in 70 moon discoveries so far around Jupiter—expects to keep adding to the lunar tally of both gas giants.
Moons & Moons
Small moons are abundant on Jupiter and Saturn and are thought to be the remains of larger moons that collided with one another, comets, asteroids, or both, according to Sheppard. The same holds true for Uranus and Neptune, however their great distance makes moon-spotting even more challenging.For the record, Uranus has 27, Neptune 14, Mars 2, and Earth 1 have confirmed moons.
Mercury and Venus are ineffective.The newly found moons of Jupiter have not yet been given names. Only about half of them, according to Sheppard, are large enough—at least one mile (1.5 kilometers)—to merit a name.