By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer
University of Hawaii astronomers have found 11 new moons around Jupiter, bringing the total to 28.
But that is hardly all.
"My hope is that later this year, maybe next year, well find 100 or more," said David Jewitt, a planetary astronomer with the universitys Institute for Astronomy.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, with a mass 300 times that of Earth.
"It has a huge gravitational field that can hold a lot of bodies," Jewitt said.
The discoveries were made on the universitys 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, one of the smallest and oldest scopes on the summit. Jewitt attributed the sightings to its excellent optics and electronics that have been kept up to date.
Graduate student Scott Sheppard and astronomers Yan Fernandez and Eugene Magnier were part of the team.
The group hopes to expand its list of discoveries this year by using a larger telescope.
The first and largest of Jupiters moons Io, Europa, Calisto and Ganymede were discovered by the astronomer Galileo in 1610.
The still-unnamed new moons appear to be 3 to 8 kilometers across, and roughly shaped.
"I assume they are potato-shaped, heavily irregular, cratered, battered and bashed up," Jewitt said.
Sheppard said they selected Jupiter for study in part because it is closer than some other planets with multiple moons.
Saturn has 30 moons, Uranus 20 and Neptune eight known moons.
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