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In a recent discovery, astronomers have observed 12 additional moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing its total number of confirmed moons to 92. This is an incredible feat and it has been made possible by a team of astronomers lead by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science. They used the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Dark Energy Camera located on the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile to observe Jupiter and its natural satellites.
The Dark Energy Camera is able to survey the sky for faint objects, which is how the team was able to differentiate between Jupiter and the objects around it versus the distant solar system objects. Follow-up observations for the 12 new moons took about a year to confirm and the team used the Magellan Telescope in Chile to conduct that work.
The Minor Planet Center is responsible for assigning each one of these moons a number in the coming months, and the International Astronomical Union allows the naming of any moon larger than about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) in size.
These moons are important to understand because they are the last remnants of the population of objects that formed in the giant planet region as the rest of the material was incorporating into the planets. They are also the building blocks of planets and can provide a window into the early years of the solar system.
The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will be visiting Jupiter and some of its moons this decade and they might be able to swing by the newly discovered moons on their way.
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