Astronomers have discovered dozen new moons encircling the Jupiter that will inevitably lead to the planet violent destruction, as they are "driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road".
The discovery of the 12 new moons brings the total number of Jovian moons to 79, more than are known to circle any other planet in our cosmic neighbourhood.
Valetudo, one of Jupiter's moons named after the goddess of health and hygiene, is fast hurtling on the wrong side of the spaceway, say Scott Sheppard, Carnegie Institution.
“Valetudo is like driving down the highway on the wrong side of the road,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard led the study at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC.
“It is moving prograde while all the other objects at a similar distance from Jupiter are moving retrograde. Thus head-on collisions are likely,” he said.
The researchers were hunting for a mysterious ninth planet when they stumbled upon the new moons.
The ninth planet is postulated to lurk far beyond the orbit of Neptune.
In was in March 2017 that the team in the US first sported the moons from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. After a year-study, they have now confirmed that the bodies were locked in orbit around the gas giant.
The study was published in the International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Electronic Circular.
Here's all you need to know about the new moons around Jupiter, according to the circular:
- Astronomers describe the twelfth new Jovian moon as an “oddball”.
- Nine of the new moons belong to an outer group that orbit Jupiter in retrograde, meaning they travel in the opposite direction to the planet’s spin.
- The nine new moons are thought to be the remnants of larger parent bodies that were broken apart in collisions with asteroids, comets and other moons.
- Each new moon takes about two years to circle the planet.
- Two more of the moons are in a group that circle much closer to the planet in prograde orbits which travel in the same direction as Jupiter’s spin.
- These two moons are most likely to be pieces of a once larger moon that was broken up in orbit, they take nearly a year to complete a lap around Jupiter.
- The direction in which the moons swing around the planet depends on how they were first captured by Jupiter’s gravitational field.
- Less than a kilometre wide, the tiny oddball circles Jupiter on a prograde orbit but at a distance that means it crosses the path of other moons hurtling towards it.
- Scientists have named the new moon Valetudo after the Roman god Jupiter’s great-granddaughter, the goddess of health and hygiene.
- Given the impending violence, it may be more than coincidence that Vale Tudo, which translates from Portuguese as “anything goes”, is an early form of full-contact mixed martial arts.
- The study suspects that Valetudo is the final remnant of a once much larger moon that has been ground to dust by collisions in the past.
“Collisions don’t happen all that frequently, every billion years or so... “If one did happen, we would be able to detect it from Earth, but it is unlikely to happen anytime soon,” Sheppard said.