BREAKING: Astronomers just found 20 NEW Moons orbiting an Alien-World in our Solar System

Recently, astronomers made a remarkable discovery of 12 additional moons encircling Jupiter, bringing the confirmed count of moons orbiting the planet to an astounding 92. This sets a record for the highest number of moons orbiting any planet in our solar system.

Jupiter, categorized as a gas giant, ranks as the largest planet in our solar system both in terms of size and mass. Comparatively, if Earth were the size of a nickel, Jupiter would be as colossal as a basketball, as described by NASA. Its massive size results in an immensely strong gravitational pull, attracting numerous objects into its orbit, though not all of them are recognized as moons.

A crucial advantage Jupiter has in accumulating a multitude of moons lies in its distance from the sun. Being far enough away from the sun prevents "lunar theft," a phenomenon that would occur if Jupiter were closer to the sun. The sun's significant gravitational force would likely lead to only a few, if any, moons around Jupiter as they engage in a "celestial tug of war," as explained by French astronomer Fathi Namovni.

Leading the team responsible for the recent discoveries, Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science suggests that there could be marry more moons waiting to be identified around Jupiter. However, the task of spotting and confirming these moons poses unique challenges. Jupiter's brightness causes glare and scattered light that obstructs the space where moons might exist, making it difficult to observe smaller moons, which constitute a significant portion of the newly discovered ones.

Several factors are taken into consideration when confirming a satellite as a moon, one of which is its orbit time. For a satellite to qualify as a moon, its orbit must be tracked over an extended period. Observations of the potential moons took place in 2021 and 2022, and it was found that all 12 moons took at least 340 days to complete their orbits, with nine of them requiring more than 550 days. This process proved to be time-consuming and meticulous.

Scientists are eager to learn more about the recently discovered moons. To gain deeper insights, the European Space Agency is preparing to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer in April, while NASA plans to launch its Europa Clipper mission in 2024. These spacecraft will venture into Jupiter's gravitational sphere of influence, and if fortunate, one of the newly discovered moons might align with their trajectories, allowing for close-up images and invaluable data.

Apart from the recently discovered moons, Jupiter's four largest moons, Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa, have been objects of fascination since Galileo's discovery in the 1600s. Each of these moons presents unique and intriguing characteristics. Io boasts volcanic activity, with lava oozing onto its surface. Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, possesses its own internal magnetic field. Callisto features ancient craters, offering insight into the early solar system's history. Europa, one of the most studied moons, holds the promise of liquid water and remains a primary target in the search for extraterrestrial life beyond Earth.

Beyond their scientific significance, the newly discovered smaller moons also hold interest for astronomers. They are believed to be the remnants of objects formed in the region around Jupiter during the planet's early formation, while the remaining material was incorporated into the larger planets. Additionally, it is speculated that these smaller moons could be the remnants of seven larger moons that underwent collisions, breaking apart into the current satellite population. The desire to capture close-up images of these outer moons is driven by the ambition to uncover their origins and better understand the intriguing history of Jupiter's moon system.

The comprehensive mapping and understanding of Jupiter's vast moon population have implications for future space missions. By having a detailed map of these moons, scientists can plan missions with precise close flybys, enabling the capture of captivating images and data from as many of these smaller moons as possible. This thorough exploration holds the potential to unveil more hidden secrets and unravel the mysteries surrounding the diverse and captivating world of Jupiter's moons.