In recent years, extrasolar moons, or exomoons, have become exciting to astronomers because of the myriad of properties they could exhibit that we don’t see in our solar system.
In fact, exomoons may soon become leading candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life. As is often the case in scientific research, the greatest challenge in studying exomoons may actually be what makes them most interesting: no one has ever physically observed one.
The most cutting-edge telescopes today have trouble detecting even the largest exoplanets. As a result, most known exoplanets are Jupiter-like gas giants orbiting closer to their star than Venus does to our Sun. At such close distances, the tidal forces acting on a planet by its parent star are powerful enough to strip off any potential exomoons.
Recent advances in instrumentation are, however expanding the range of detectable exoplanets. The detection of smaller planets on wider orbits that could potentially support exomoons is now becoming more and more feasible.