Artist’s impression of the view from a hypothetical moon around a exoplanet orbiting a triple star system. Credit: NASA
With the arrival of the Cassini–Huygens mission in 2004 to Saturn’s satellite Titan, we terrestrials became acutely aware that similar moons could be orbiting similarly large planets in other solar systems besides our own.
These extrasolar moons, or exomoons, might be a little bit difficult to distinguish with our current equipment, but our technological grasp has greatly improved in recent years. Now current studies suggest that not only can these naturally occurring satellites exist – but they also might be habitable.
As we know, there isn’t exactly a lack of planetary candidates hospitable to life. At least 40 so far discovered are within Earth-like tolerances and it’s only a matter of time before transit timings (TTV and TDV) and wobble variations will allow us to detect their moons. If the potential is there for the giant planet – then why not its companion?
“The satellites of extrasolar planets (exomoons) have been recently proposed as astrobiological targets. Since giant planets in the habitable zone are thought to have migrated there,” says Simon Porter of Lowell Observatory and William Grundy of Arizona State University. “It is possible that they may have captured a former terrestrial planet or planetesimal.”
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