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Jupiter XLVI

This tiny moon of Jupiter, a mere 3km in diameter, takes its name from a mythological daughter of Zeus (the Greek equivalent of Roman Jupiter). Carpo orbits Jupiter at a mean distance of some seventeen million kilometres, following an orbit that is both highly eccentric and strongly inclined from Jupiter's equatorial plane.

Carpo is significant as marking the boundary between two quite different groups of Jovian moons. Within its orbit are the prograde moons, including the four large Galiliean satellites, whose orbits follow the rotation of Jupiter and were evidently formed at the same time as the giant planet. Carpo is itself prograde, but beyond it lie the retrograde moons, which form the majority of Jupiter's satellites. These outer moons orbit Jupiter in the opposite direction to its rotation, and are thought to be bodies captured by Jupiter after its formation.

Most of Jupiter's moons fall into distinct families based on their nature and their orbits. Directly within Carpo's orbit lie the five prograde moons that make up the Himalia group, while beyond Carpo lie the six retrograde moons that form the Ananke group. Carpo itself is unusual in that it has no other comparable moons and does not belong to any family, and is thus classified as one of Jupiter's few irregular satellites.


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