You might be surprised to learn that Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and has more than 15 times as many moons as Earth. In fact, with 67 confirmed moons, Jupiter has almost twice as many moons as any other planet in the Solar System.
Of course, that doesn’t take into account icy bodies like Pluto, which could have even more moons hidden under its surface. In this article, we answer the question “How Many Moons Does Jupiter Have?” and share everything you need to know about these fascinating celestial objects.
How Many Moons Does Jupiter Have?
As we write this, the most recent count of Jupiter’s moons comes in at 67. That’s three more than the previous total due to the discovery of “odd couple” S/2017 J2 and S/2017 J3. While there are many moons orbiting the planet, some of them are more notable than others.
The most famous moon of Jupiter is, of course, Europa, which is also the smallest of the Galilean moons and the sixth-closest moon to the planet. Europa is most famous for harboring life. On Earth, life thrives beneath the ice in places like Antarctica. Europa has a giant saltwater ocean underneath a layer of ice that is thought to be 100 kilometers (62 miles) thick.
Because Jupiter and its moons are so old, they have been around long enough to acquire each other’s names. Jupiter’s four large moons–Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto—are named after Greco-Roman deities. The three newly discovered moons of Jupiter are named after gods from Japanese mythology.
If you are confused by all the names of moons, don’t worry! Many astronomers believe that the moons of Jupiter are not actually correctly named. In fact, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto each have many moons. As a result, many astronomers believe that the moons should actually be renamed.
Europa and Jupiter’s other moons
Europa – As we’ve mentioned, this is the most famous of Jupiter’s moons. It is named after a Phoenician princess, who was abducted by Zeus in the form of a swan. Scientists believe that a large ocean of liquid water exists beneath an extremely thick layer of ice. This has led to speculation that Europa could harbor extraterrestrial life.
Ganymede – Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System. It is larger than the planet Mercury. Ganymede is named after the lover of the goddess Aphrodite.
Callisto – Callisto is named after a nymph who became a bear to escape the phallus of Zeus. It is the second-largest moon of Jupiter and is the only one that does not have an atmosphere.
Ganymede and Jupiter’s other moons
Ganymede – Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System. It is larger than the planet Mercury. Ganymede is named after the lover of the goddess Aphrodite. Ganymede has a thin atmosphere, but it is very cold. Most of the surface is water ice. There is also an iron core in the center.
Himalia – Himalia is a small, irregularly shaped moon. It is named after the daughter of the river god Siva.
Elara – Elara is another irregularly shaped moon. It is named after the mother of the giant king Gilgamesh.
Lysithea – Lysithea is a small, round moon. It is named after a nymph who was loved by Pan the sylvan god.
Callisto and Jupiter’s Other Moons
Callisto – Callisto is the second-largest moon of Jupiter. It is the only one that does not have an atmosphere. Callisto is named after a nymph who became a bear to escape the phallus of Zeus. Callisto has the saddest story of the four Galilean moons. It has a young age and is made up of very clean ice.
There are many craters and few or no impacts. It’s the most recently formed moon in the Solar System. So, how many moons does Jupiter have? It’s hard to say, but most astronomers believe that it has 66 moons. That’s because the last two are faint and irregularly shaped. Scientists may decide to lump them together with the other 66 moons, or they may name them something new.
Jupiter is the king of the planets, and it lives up to that title by having the most moons in the Solar System. These moons are fascinating worlds in their own right, even though most of them are too small and far away for humans to explore in person.
The largest moons of Jupiter are all named after Roman or Greek deities, with the exception of Callisto, which is named after a nymph who became a bear to escape the phallus of Zeus.
If you are confused by all the names of moons, don’t worry! Many astronomers believe that the moons of Jupiter are not actually correctly named. In fact, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto each have many moons.