Artistic illustration of a potentially livable exomoon gravitating around a giant planet in a distant solar system.
Credit: NASA GSFC / Jay Friedlander and Britt Griswold
What do you call an exomoon on the run with planethood illusions? You call that a "ploonet", of course.
Scientists had previously proposed the endearing term "Moonmoons" to describe moons that can gravitate around other moons in distant solar systems. Now another team of researchers has coined the melodious nickname "ploonet" to refer to the moons of giant planets orbiting hot stars; in certain circumstances, these moons abandon these orbits to become satellites of the star host.
The old moon is then "unbound" and has an orbit similar to that of a planet – ergo, a ploonet. [Top 10 Amazing Moon Facts]
The ploonets – and all exomoons – have not yet been detected. But ploonets can produce lightweight signatures that planet-hunting telescopes could identify, the researchers reported in a new study. Their findings were published June 27 in the pre-print arXiv review and have not yet been peer reviewed.
For this study, scientists created computer models to test scenarios that could turn a moon into orbit around the planet into an orbiting satellite plane. The researchers discovered that if a moon surrounded a type of exoplanet known as "hot Jupiter" – a huge gas giant close to a star – the gravitational standoff between the star and the the planet could be powerful enough to tear the moon off its planet orbit and send the object instead around the star.
Orbiting a nearby star would be stressful for a small board; During its transit, the atmosphere of the ploonet could evaporate and the world would lose some of its mass, creating a distinctive signature in the light emitted by the star's neighborhood, indicated the # 39; study. This is the signature that telescopes might be able to detect.
In fact, recent observations of mysterious light emissions around distant warm stars could be explained by the appearance and prolonged death of stray ploonets, the study says.
Some ploonets could maintain their orbits for hundreds of millions of years. By adding particles of the disk of dust and gas around his star, a board could even build his body until it becomes a small planet, wrote the authors of the study.
However, simulations have shown that most planets would probably have a relatively short life span. The majority of objects with endearing names have disappeared in a million years and have never become planets; instead, they disintegrated during collisions with their former host planets, were engulfed by stars during acts of "planetary cannibalism" or were ejected from their orbit in space, have indicated the researchers.
Originally published on Science live.