Jupiter has 79 known moons, second only to 82 identified moons of Saturn. That’s a lot of moons, but what if Jupiter had 600 moons? How cool would that be? University of British Columbia researchers Edward Ashton, Matthew Beaudoin and Brett Gladman studied archival images of Jupiter taken over a 3 hour period on Sept. 8, 2020 at Canada, France, Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Factoring in variation of movement across the field of view, they digitally combined images from 126 different viewpoints. Voila – 52 possibly unknown Jovian moons appeared, Further analysis kicked 7 to the curb (known moons with irregular orbits), leaving 45 eager applicants vying for official Jovian moon status. Curiously, all in retrograde orbit. ( orbiting backward in relation to Jupiter’s orbit ).
So why 600 unidentified moons of Jupiter? Their search was limited to one square degree of view of space surrounding Jupiter. Extrapolation concluded as many as 600 or more unknown moons of Jupiter. Lead researchers will present their findings virtually on Sept. 25, 2020 at the Europlanet Science Congress 2020.
Admittedly these moons are small, 800 meters or so, struggling or barely within reach of IAU (International Astronomical Union ) rules requiring one kilometer in diameter to qualify as moons. Stark contrast to Ganymede – Jupiter’s largest moon, largest moon in our solar system, a moon larger than planets Mercury and Mars.
Not a day goes by without science learning more about the cosmos, 600 possible moons of Jupiter is remarkable. Hats off to science.