Astronomers Say That Moons Might Have Their Own Moons And 'Moonmoons' Would Make A Great Name For Them!

Astronomers Say That Moons Might Have Their Own Moons And 'Moonmoons' Would Make A Great Name For Them!


Many planets, including Earth, are orbited by one or more moons. However, what if those rock and ice celestial bodies were themselves surrounded by smaller objects? And, if such things exist, what are they called?


Astronomers Juna Kollmeier from the Carnegie Institution of Washington as well as Sean Raymond from the University of Bordeaux say that yes, perhaps such objects exist and there some ideas on how to call them: from the scientific-sounding "submoon" to the much more fascinating "moonmoon," but more on that later.


In their analysis published in the pre-print database arXiv, Kollmeier and Raymond calculate the Goldilocks conditions which would allow a submoon to stably orbit its moon without being thrown off course or sheared into pieces by the gravitational pull from the moon’s planet.


After making several assumptions about the densities of moons and submoons based on what we know about the players in our Solar System, the authors conclude that only large moons – those with a radius of 1,000 km (621 miles) or larger. They wrote that:


“Tidal [energy flux] destabilizes the orbits of submoons around moons that are small or too close to their host planet; this is the case for most of the Solar System's moons.”


“A handful of known moons are, however, capable of hosting long-lived submoons: Saturn's moons Titan and Iapetus, Jupiter's moon Callisto, and Earth's Moon.”


They added that the newly discovered moon orbiting the exoplanet Kepler-1625b (a gas giant about six to twelve times the size of Earth, orbiting a Sun-like star located about 8,000 light-years away) might be able to host a submoon as well, though they don’t know enough about the object to be sure.



However, even if it is theoretically possible for a submoon (or moonmoon!) to survive the competing forces from a moon and a planet then the likelihood of one forming in a moon-planet environment with the correct configuration is rather low.


At the end of the paper, Raymond and Kollmeier call for further studies investigating the conditions which could lead to submoon creation and persistence and those trying to locate some real-world examples.



In the meantime, the Internet has erupted into a frenzy over the possibility of submoons. Thanks to a declaration by New Scientist, everybody is gleefully calling them "moonmoons," a name which has been considered in the astronomy community before.


Kollmeier told Quartz said that she and her co-author would be happy to stick with submoons, although they also approve of moonmoons, moonettes, moooons, and moonitos.


“IAU [the International Astronomical Union] will have to decide!” she said. She obviously has a sense of humor, but us poor laypeople need to know whether "moonettes" is a serious contender or just a joke. Because that would be great on a T-shirt./p>

Astronomers Say That Moons Might Have Their Own Moons And 'Moonmoons' Would Make A Great Name For Them! Astronomers Say That Moons Might Have Their Own Moons And 'Moonmoons' Would Make A Great Name For Them! Reviewed by Katerina Pap on 8:52 AM Rating: 5

1 comment

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