The orbital positions of more than a dozen small moonlets around Jupiter and Saturn are so uncertain that they are effectively lost.
Prior to the year 2000, Jupiter had 17 known moons, about half of which moved in "irregular" orbits that were highly inclined and eccentric and often traveling in reverse (retrograde), with respect to Jupiter's spin. Saturn had 18 moons in all, though only Phoebe occupied an unusual orbit.
Jupiter's irregulars had paths that seemed to be clustered, suggesting that these bodies were related — most likely chunks set loose during long-ago collisions.
To track down more members of these oddball families, University of Hawaii graduate student Scott Sheppard and his adviser, David Jewitt, started an ambitious project to find new irregular satellites around Jupiter and Saturn. Using the big guns on Mauna Kea — first the university's 2.2-m reflector and the 3.6-m Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, and later the 8.2-m Subaru telescope, Sheppard and Jewitt were wildly successful. In a single 2003 article, they announced the discovery of 23 irregular Jovian satellites, clustered into five distinct dynamical groups.
Meanwhile, another observing group, led by Canadian astronomers Brett Gladman and JJ Kavelaars, had likewise been quite successful tracking down new outer-planet satellites, particularly around Saturn. NASA's Cassini orbiter also chipped in a few Saturnian moonlets after its arrival in late 2004.
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