UH astronomers help find 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Astronomers from the University of Hawaii have helped discover 12 new moons orbiting the planet Jupiter.

Dave Tholen and Dora Fohring, astronomers with the school's Institute for Astronomy, were scanning the skies for something else when they happened upon the moons by coincidence.

The astronomers were looking for Planet X, an unknown massive planet at the fringes of the Solar System, according the the school.

"By sheer coincidence, Jupiter and its newly found moons were in the same area as the survey fields for Planet X," a UH news release said.

Tholen and Fohring followed the motions of the possible moons, tracking their orbits. This is something the school says was a challenge.

This gif shows two telescope images of Jupiter's newly confirmed moon S/2017 J2. The moon is seen moving near the center of the two images. If you have trouble viewing the gif, click here. (Photo: University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, Carnegie Institution for Science)

"When these moons were visible, Jupiter was very close to our own bright moon, so great care was needed to ensure that the images didn't saturate from overexposure," the news release said.

The university says the moons are so faint that they are not all visible on any single photo, only when several images are combined. The UH 88-inch telescope and the Subaru telescope, both located on the Maunakea volcano on The Big Island, were used to take the photos.

The UH astronomers are part of a team led by The Carnegie Institution for Science. The institution says one of the new findings is an "oddball" moon, which orbits in the opposite direction from others of its kind. The dozen new-found moons brings Jupiter's total number of known moons to 79—the most of any planet in the Solar System.

(Video: Carnegie Science)

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