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Discoveries boost Jupiter’s retinue to 79 moons

Jupiter moons
The oddball Jovian moon, known as Valetudo, crosses the orbits of moons that move in the opposite direction.  (Carnegie Institution of Science / Roberto Molar Candanosa)

Astronomers searching for signs of a hypothetical “Planet Nine” have instead come up with 12 new moons of Jupiter, including one that hints at a cosmic crack-up.

The discoveries were made more than a year ago, and the orbits of two of the moons were confirmed soon after they were found. It took much longer for the other 10 to have their orbits verified.

“It takes several observations to confirm an object actually orbits around Jupiter,” Gareth Williams of the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center explained in a news release. “So, the whole process took a year.”

The Minor Planet Center published the remaining 10-pack’s orbital parameters today, marking their formal acceptance as Jovian moons. That brings Jupiter’s total tally to 79 moons, easily besting runner-up Saturn’s count of 62.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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