Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wobbly Planets Could Reveal Earth-like Moons

Date:
December 13, 2008
Source:
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Summary:
Moons outside our Solar System with the potential to support life have just become much easier to detect. Astronomers have found that such moons can be revealed by looking at wobbles in the velocity of the planets they orbit.

Artist's representation of a gas giant exoplanet with a habitable moon.
Credit: Andy McLatchie

Moons outside our Solar System with the potential to support life have just become much easier to detect, thanks to research by an astronomer at University College London (UCL).

Related Articles


David Kipping has found that such moons can be revealed by looking at wobbles in the velocity of the planets they orbit. His calculations, which appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society December 11, not only allow us to confirm if a planet has a satellite but to calculate its mass and distance from its host planet – factors that determine the likely habitability of a moon.

Out of the 300+ exoplanets (planets outside our Solar System) currently known, almost 30 are in the habitable zone of their host star but all of these planets are uninhabitable gas giants. The search for moons in orbit around these planets is important in our search for alien life as they too will be in the habitable zone but are more likely to be rocky and Earth-like, with the potential to harbour life.

“Until now astronomers have only looked at the changes in the position of a planet as it orbits its star. This has made it difficult to confirm the presence of a moon as these changes can be caused by other phenomena, such as a smaller planet,” said David Kipping. “By adopting this new method and looking at variations in a planet’s position and velocity each time it passes in front of its star, we gain far more reliable information and have the ability to detect an Earth-mass moon around a Neptune-mass gas planet.”

The appearance of wobbles in a planet’s position and velocity are caused by the planet and its moon orbiting a common centre of gravity. While the old method of looking at the wobbles in position allowed astronomers to search for moons, it did not allow them to determine either their mass or their distance from the planet.

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said, “It’s very exciting that we can now gather so much information about distant moons as well as distant planets. If some of these gas giants found outside our Solar System have moons, like Jupiter and Saturn, there’s a real possibility that some of them could be Earth-like.”

Kippings work is funded by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Science and Technology Facilities Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Science and Technology Facilities Council. "Wobbly Planets Could Reveal Earth-like Moons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211112309.htm>.
Science and Technology Facilities Council. (2008, December 13). Wobbly Planets Could Reveal Earth-like Moons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211112309.htm
Science and Technology Facilities Council. "Wobbly Planets Could Reveal Earth-like Moons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211112309.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Observers near Wallops Island recorded what they thought would be a routine rocket launch Tuesday night. What they recorded was a major rocket explosion shortly after lift off. (Oct 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Just hours after an American cargo run to the International Space Station ended in flames, a Russian supply ship has arrived at the station with a load of fresh supplies. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 29, 2014) A space education journalist is among those who witness and record the explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket seconds after its launch. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) NASA and Orbital Sciences officials say they are investigating the explosion of an unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. It blew up moments after liftoff Tuesday evening over the launch site in Virginia. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins