Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones. The latest discovery of a dozen small moons brings the total to 79, the most of any planet in our solar system.

One moon, tentatively called Valetudo, stands out. It follows a strange prograde orbit that occasionally crosses the path of the retrograde moons. “It’s basically going the wrong direction on the highway,” said astronomer Scott Sheppard. “And that means that the chances of a collision are much higher.”

Sheppard said the discovery could help answer some long-standing questions about the formation of the extensive Jovian system. If Valetudo is the remnant of a larger moon with the same weird orbit, it is possible that the families of small moons were created by the collision of two moons.

Biochemistry research moves to virtual world

There was a time when biochemists had a lot in common with sculptors. Scientists who had devoted their lives to studying a molecule would build a model, using metal and a forest of rods to hold up the structure of thousands of atoms.

These days simulations on screens have replaced the metal and rod-style models. Now, researchers report they have constructed an environment in which users can manipulate the proteins in virtual reality nearly 10 times faster than on a screen. In the virtual world, users are experiencing the cutting edge of what scientists know about how molecules move and flex, said David Glowacki, a researcher in chemistry and computer science at the University of Bristol. “When you reach out and touch these molecular strings, you are touching the absolute real physics.”

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