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Sixty years ago, Jupiter carried on a 12-year fling with an extra "moon" then casually cast it aside—and the gas giant will likely do it again within decades, scientists announced today.
In 1949 the massive planet's gravity pulled in comet 147P/Kushida-Muramatsu and held it in orbit until 1961, according to an international team led by Katsuhito Ohtsuka of the Tokyo Meteor Network.
The 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter-wide) comet's stint as a so-called temporary satellite was revealed when the researchers used calculations taken since the comet's 1993 discovery to determine the space rock's past course.
"We can be fairly sure that the comet orbited Jupiter once or twice before escaping it," said team member David Asher of the U.K.'s Armagh Observatory.
That same advance in computer modeling has no doubt contributed to this latest discovery. My congratulations to David Asher and all the people that contributed to this and their past work towards unraveling the mysteries of the solar system we live in!