Astronomers search for habitable moons
2009 09 14

By Richard Gray | telegraph.co.uk



Comment: Is someone trying to go off planet?

Moons capable of supporting life like those portrayed in the popular Star Wars films could be scattered all over our galaxy, according to astronomers.

Scientists at University College London believe there are thousands of habitable moons orbiting planets in other solar systems trillions of miles from our own.

They have calculated that it should even be possible to spot these moons using a space telescope launched by Nasa earlier this year to hunt out other planets.

Dr David Kipping, from the department of physics and astronomy at University College London, will tell a conference on the search for habitable planets that the first habitable moons could be spotted within the next five years.

He claims there are more than 12,500 stars within sight of Nasa's Kepler Space Telescope that have the potential for moons orbiting in areas of space where conditions could be favourable to life – the so called habitable zone.

He and his colleagues have devised a new method for detecting moons in other solar systems – known as exomoons. Scientists only recently started to spot extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, and have been competing to find one that could support life.

Dr Kipping said: "For the first time, we have demonstrated that potentially-habitable moons up to hundreds of light years away may be detected with current instrumentation.

"As we ran the simulations, even we were surprised that moons as small as one-fifth of the Earth's mass could be spotted.

"It seems probable that many thousands, possibly millions, of habitable exomoons exist in the Galaxy and now we can start to look for them."

Around 370 exoplanets have now been discovered, but most are giant gas planets similar to Jupiter and so unlikely to harbour life.

Earlier this year astronomers announced the discovery of an exoplanet known as Gliese 581 d, which is 20 light years away and eight times the size of the Earth, and is now seen as the best contender to be habitable.

The Kepler Space Telescope, launched by Nasa in March this year, will spend the next three and a half years scouring the skies for Earth-sized, rocky planets that contain water and so could support life.

But Dr Kipping says it will also be possible to use Kepler to spot moons orbiting other planets by looking for tiny wobbles in their orbit. At the conference, Pathways to Habitable Planets, scientists will discuss the best ways to locate and characterise planets in other solar systems. By analysing the light reflected from such planets they hope to discover what chemicals are present on the surface, including water.

Dr Ignasi Ribas, from the Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain, said: "The prospects we have in the coming years to find habitable planets and, even more, characterise them and look for signatures of biological activity are just mind boggling."

Source: telegraph.co.uk



Related Articles
Our Enigmatic Moon
The Moon - What Is It And Who Made It?
NASA gets cold feet on Moon base plan
Moon's South Pole Gets Close-Up in Restored Photos
NASA spacecraft will get clear pictures of Apollo relics on the Moon
Moon landing tapes got erased, NASA admits
Plants 'thrive' on Moon rock diet
Never-before-seen photo shows Neil Armstrong's face as he first walks across the moon
Moon Rock Fake
Are UFOs interfering with NASA's moon-colliding probe LCROSS?
Red Ice Radio - Mike Bara - Dark Mission, The Occult NASA Moon Mission
Red Ice Radio - Alfred Webre - Exopolitics, NASA Bombing of the Moon, Outer Space Treaty & E.T.
Earth's Moon a rare species
Solar system's unusual structure suggests existence of extraterrestrial civilizations
The Enchanted Universe
What if life on Earth did not begin on Earth?


Latest News from our Front Page

Chess-playing computers may cause the robot apocalypse
2014 04 23
Sore-loser chess programs might be the end of us all... In the movie The Terminator, we heard the human side of the story of Judgment Day, with the machines getting smart and seeing us as a threat. It wasn’t until the sequel that we heard the tale from the machine’s point of view, as it chose to start World War III ...
Archeologists’ findings may prove Rome a century older than thought
2014 04 23
It is already known as the eternal city, and if new archeological findings prove correct Rome may turn out to be even more so than believed until now. Next week, the city will celebrate its official, 2,767th birthday. According to a tradition going back to classic times, the brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city on 21 April in the year ...
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
2014 04 23
A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. "I can’t speak for other MPs, but I’ve had many, many calls over the past eight years about chemtrails. And these questions are not so easy to answer," ...
Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound
2014 04 23
If it quacks like a duck... it’s not always a duck. Scientists have reportedly gotten to the bottom of the mysterious ’Bio-Duck’ sound in the Antarctic. Here’s a recording of the strange sound (it’s kind of a stretch to say it sounds like a duck, but who are we to second guess the biologists?). --- Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound Solved By Tanya Lewis ...
’Extreme’ Carbon Dioxide Reduction will be a Death Sentence for Humanity & Planet Earth
2014 04 23
If we allow a fraudulent pseudo-environmentalist cult to control every aspect of our lives then our children are doomed to a totalitarian existence which Stalin could only have dreamed of. “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine ...
More News »