Why Does Jupiter Have So Many Moons?
Jupiter has many moons due to its strong gravitational pull, proximity to the asteroid belt, and large size.
There are about 200 moons in our Solar System, with more than one-third belonging to Jupiter. More importantly, there is a strong case that Jupiter has, by far, the most moons in the solar system. Every planet has its number of moons, but Jupiter has significantly more than other planets in the Solar System.
If French astronomer Fathi Namouni is right, Jupiter has 79 moons and counting; because it is a crazy-massive planet far enough away from the Sun, moon-stealing is impossible. All told, Jupiter has no less than 16 easily visible moons, with several others observed by spacecraft like Voyagers 1 and 2 and Galileo.
Its size plays a part in the number of moons that orbit Jupiter, as it has a wide gravitational stabilization region around it that can support a lot of moons. The main reasons Jupiter has a higher number of moons than other planets are its relative size and distance from the Sun. The gravitational forces from the sun are attenuated the farther you get, explaining why Jupiter, and Jovian planets, are able to accumulate so many moons.
Each of the Jovian planets has a large number of moons, though Jupiter has the largest, with over 60 cataloged so far. Most of the 79 Jovian moons are small, under 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) across, and were discovered by automated, modern spacecraft in the 1970s and 1990s. These are called Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, the largest Jupiter moons to date - and the first discovered.
Going from the closest moons to Jupiter to the farthest, the order from Jupiter outward is Io, Europa, one--Ganymede, and Callisto. Ios elliptical orbit Jupiter's largest moons, Europa and Io, are in an orbital resonance with Jupiter.
Io makes exactly four orbits, while Europa makes exactly two within the same amount of time that Jupiter's largest moon takes to make a single orbit of Jupiter. In other words, each time Ganymede goes around the planet once, Europa makes two orbits, while Io makes four.
Ganymede looks like Earth's moon but is 1.5 times bigger (that is what Ganymede would look like if it were orbiting the Earth). Three Galilean satellites are larger than the Earth's Moon; one, Ganymede, is the largest moon in the Solar System.
Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, is larger than Mercury, and the other three are larger than Pluto. Saturn, another gas giant, has up to 62 moons, with its largest, Titan, even larger than Mercury. Saturn has plenty of moons, too, besides its impressive rings (though all of the larger outer planets have rings), including the largest one in the solar system, Titan.
Earth has just a single moon, but dozens of natural moons are orbiting Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. Meanwhile, Venus and Mercury, two planets closest to the Sun in our solar system, do not have any moons at all, and Earth has one paltry moon to speak of, with Mars doubling up as two minuscule satellites. With 79 known moons total - including four larger ones known as the Galilean moons - Jupiter nearly qualifies as its own solar system.
The Galilean moons are far and away, the largest and most massive objects orbiting Jupiter, and the remaining 76 known moons and rings combined make up only 0.003% of the orbiting masses. Although Galilean satellites make up a smaller percentage of the total number of confirmed satellites on Jupiter, they make up 99.999 % of the total mass that orbits Jupiter, including the rings system.
In fact, you only need a good pair of binoculars or a retail telescope to view all four of these Jupiter's largest moons, all at least 3,100 kilometers (1,900 miles) across. From Earth, through a small telescope or a powerful pair of binoculars, Jupiter's moons appear as small, starlike specks of light. The planets king is a wonderful show, best seen through a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, where you can probably spot one or more of its larger moons.
The largest moon is larger in diameter than Mercury, so it may be a planet in its own right had it not been caught in the orbit of Jupiter. Its largest might have been its own planet, like our Poorest, had it not been sucked into the orbits of the other gas giants.
This would also explain why our Poor and Moon compositions are so similar: they were part of the same collision. Among a number of other things, it explains why our moon is lighter in weight than Our Poors moon: It was formed by leftover shell material, not core material.
Ultimately, our moon was made as it is and is located in its current position because of this collision. Our poobahs could pick up our moon, in essence, because one huge collision kicked large amounts of free material out into space, close to our orbit.
The formation supports and is consistent with other theories about moon formation and collections, such as capture theory (where larger planets, such as Jupiter, are so massive they pick up passing moons and latch onto them in orbit because of the strong force of their gravity). In addition to braking, giants have significantly stronger gravitational forces than terrestrial planets (due to their size), so the combination allows them to pick up passing satellites, which, in turn, turn into moons.
The 20 new moons are, on average, five kilometers across, with 17 orbiting in a direction opposite that of Saturn and other moons.
Astronomers discovered 10 smaller moons orbiting Jupiter, raising the planet's total to 79 - the largest number of moons known to surround any planet by far. Jupiter was the planet with the most moons until 2019 when 20 new moons were found orbiting Saturn. On 16 July 2018, it was announced that a team of astronomers had discovered 12 previously unknown moons around Jupiter.
In the dim, dark region of the Solar System where Jupiter calls home, large asteroids are abundant (with a diameter greater than a kilometer), so it is not unreasonable to think the number of Jovian moons may grow in the future.
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