Jupiter now has 69 known moons

Jupiter adds to its haul of known moons as astronomers reveal two new satellites spotted orbiting the distant gas giant.

These images show the two new moons, marked by the green lines, at different points in their orbits.
Scott S. Sheppard

Jupiter is quite the moon collector. Astronomers studying the gas giant planet's satellites have upped its known moon total to 69 with an announcement of two newly discovered moons. The moons are now known as S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1

Some of Jupiter's moons have mysterious orbits that make them hard to track. At the start of 2016, astronomers considered 14 of these satellites to be "lost moons." Some have since been found and traced, but the June moon announcement concerns two brand new moons. 

"We confirmed they were not lost moons with having over one year of observations on both, giving us 2 new Jupiter moons and making 69 known moons of Jupiter," Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science writes

Astronomers spotted the small moons in March 2016 and March 2017 while surveying the Kuiper Belt, an area full of icy space objects, including dwarf planet Pluto. Each moon is only about a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide.

Jupiter's total could increase with new observations scheduled for 2018. Jupiter isn't the only planet in the solar system that hoards moons. Saturn has 62 known moons, which means it might look over at Jupiter and have moon envy.

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