Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 25, 2012

Just How Many Moons Does Jupiter Have?

Jupiter and its moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Jupiter and its moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Have you ever wondered just how many moons (satellites) the gas giant Jupiter has?  I thought I knew, but then those astronomers  go and change it again……. and again!! That’s the beauty of science; it’s never dull and always changing.  To read about the latest information I could find regarding the planet with the most moons click HERE.  I hope it’s the most up-to-date information, but remember,  the information is subject to change at a moments notice.

Here’s some interesting information regarding the planet with the most moons and why the number is always changing.

Question:

How many moons does Jupiter have?

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Answer:

Lately, this question has had a changing answer! For many years, we knew of 16 moons for the largest planet in our solar system. In the last few years, about two dozen new moons have been announced by astronomers. However, being announced does not mean that these become “official” moons of the planet. To be recognized by the scientific community as a new moon involves a process which may take several years – and some announced objects never get recognized at all! Let’s explain.

When a scientist makes observations which indicate a new moon, they submit their data and analysis to the scientific community. Other scientists then try to confirm the existance of the new moon by additional observations. If it is confirmed, the data are all submitted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU is the governing body for astronomy. One of their jobs is to decide what is sufficiently proven and what is not, and then to assign names. If sufficiently confirmed, the IAU gives a preliminary name to the new moon. Scientists get time to consider the name. Finally, at one of their meetings, the scientific membership of the IAU votes on whether or not to accept the object and its name as an “official moon” of the planet. This process (from initial announcement to official acceptance) may take several years.

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