You’re never too old to discover new things, and we all get to delight in the discovery that Jupiter has been 69ing—with moons, that is.
Scientific American somewhat rudely describes Jupiter as “a beast” in a report on new discoveries in its orbit. You see, Jupiter is 317 times the mass of Earth, making it a powerful gravitational draw in the highly competitive club of our galaxy. Because of its size, it’s surrounded by “an astonishing collective of orbiting natural bodies.” I bet it is, that naughty planet. It’s not exactly Jupiter’s first time around the sun, if you know what I’m saying.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been voyeuristically peeping on the sensual dance Jupiter makes with its many Galilean moons for awhile. Astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chadwick Trujillo have added two more moons to Jupiter’s count of 67, bring it up to lucky number 69. And as with most exciting discoveries, NASA kind of found out by accident when they put their probes in the wrong place:
These additions are also about 1-2 km in size, and were spotted in images that were part of a survey for much more distant objects out in the Kuiper Belt. Jupiter just happened to be conveniently close in the sky at the time. The moons are S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1, and are about 21 million km and 24 million km from Jupiter.
Jupiter is the biggest, most beautiful and powerful 69ing planet in our solar system, and a true source of inspiration for those of us who feel like we’re pushing our first millennium.