Jupiters Moons And Ring

The first objects in the solar system discovered by means of a telescope—by Galileo in 1610—were the four brightest moons of Jupiter, now called the Galilean satellites. The fifth known Jovian moon, Amalthea, was discovered by the visual observation of Edward Emerson Barnard in 1892. All the other known satellites were found in photographs or electronic images taken with Earth-based telescopes or by the cameras on the Voyager spacecraft. Jupiter's multi-component ring was detected in Voyager images in 1979. (A table summarizing data for the known Jovian moons can be found in Appendix A, "Moons of Jupiter.")

The orbits of the inner eight moons have low eccentricities and low inclinations; i.e., the orbits are all nearly circular and in the plane of the planet's equator. Such moons are called "regular." The orbits of the dozens of moons found beyond Callisto have much higher inclinations and eccentricities, making them "irregular." The two innermost moons, Metis and Adrastea, are intimately associated with Jupiter's ring system, as sources of the fine particles and as gravitationally controlling "shepherds."

Amalthea and Thebe also contribute to the ring system by producing very tenuous gossamer rings slightly farther from the planet. There may well be additional, undiscovered small moons close to Jupiter. There almost certainly are more distant irregular moons than those so far detected.

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