You never know what might turn up when you’re looking for something else

Astronomers went looking for a far-off mystery planet and found 12 New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter.

I find this immediately entertaining and interesting, even though I do also immediately wonder “And what are you calling a ‘moon,’ buddy?” Sometimes people do seem to want to define rocks that are hardly bigger than baseballs as moons, it seems to me. Are these real moons, and if so, how did we miss them so long?

To be clear, these moons are no Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system. They’re tiny, some barely a mile across, and they are tracing all kinds of weird paths around the giant world.

A-ha. You call that a moon, do you?

The dozen new moons range in size from roughly one to three miles across. Two of the moons are clustered relatively near the planet, and they orbit in the same direction that Jupiter spins. They’re likely the remnants of a much larger moon that has been broken into pieces over the billions of years since the birth of the solar system….

There are a bunch of retrograde moons that also probably are remnants of a larger moon. So at least some of them might have once been real moons.

Okay, well, I grant, my idea of a proper moon is of course formed by OUR moon, which is outsized relative to Earth, compared to most moons that orbit other planets.

Still, these little moonlets are neat to find, I grant you. Also, I sympathize with this comment:

Sheppard took a look at the other giant planets, too, and didn’t find any new moons orbiting Uranus and Neptune. That kind of bummed him out.

“Uranus is the best one to find moons around,” he says, “because you get to name things after Shakespearean characters.”

Now I’m sorry they didn’t find any new little rocks orbiting Uranus…

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