Perhaps we should rename Jupiter "Unicron" or "Galactus," now that scientists have discovered that the planet may have devoured some of its own moons while being formed. Is there nothing Stan Lee didn't (incorrectly) predict?
Scientists Robin Canup and William Ward, from Boulder, CO's Southwest Research Institute, have uncovered the guilty secret of little ol' Jove: Namely, that the four moons that orbit it now had somewhere around five times more brothers and sisters that were lured to their deaths - and "eaten" - by the planet. Canup explains:
All the other moons - and there could have been 20 or more - were devoured by the planet in the early days of the solar system... There could have been five generations of moons. The current Galilean moons formed just as the inflow of material into the [debris] disc from the solar system choked off, so they escaped the fate of their unfortunate predecessors.
Canup also thinks that Jupiter may not be alone in its interest in eating moons:
We think something similar happened around Saturn, where the last generation contained one giant moon - Titan.
Amateur astronomers are now being urged to contact the authorities if they think any of our neighboring planets may be looking at us hungrily.
Cannibalistic Jupiter Ate Its Early Moons [New Scientist]