Published : Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 10:42 AM
Pasadena Astronomer Juna Kollmeier may make moon history.
Her complex theory and its charming new phrase — moonmoon — are taking the Internet by storm this week.
It all started off with a simple question, when Kollmeier was asked by her son four years ago if moons have moons.
But when the famed NASA Hubble Telescope suggested at the beginning of October there may be evidence of a Neptune-sized moon in another star system circling the gas-planet Kepler-1625b, Kollmeier revved up her research.
“We’re really just scratching the surface here with how we can use the absence of submoons to figure out our early history,” Kollmeier, an astronomer at the Pasadena’s Carnegie Observatories facility, told Gizmodo, of the research she is conducting with the University of Bordeaux astronomer Sean Raymond.
Breaking down the tidal considerations of a moonmoon in the October 9 arXiv preprint server paper, Kollmeier contends “moons may migrate inward and crash into their host planets or migrate outward until they reach the stability limit.”
Bottom-line, if there is such thing as a moonmoon, it would only exist around larger moons.
“Remarkably, Jupiter (Callisto), Saturn (Titan and Iapetus), and Earth (Moon) each have the potential to host long-lived submoons around their current moons,” Kollimeier writes in the paper, adding the assumption can be concluded by the Kepler-1625b exomoon’s “orbital separation and inferred mass and size.”
Kollmeier, a former Hubble fellow, has an interesting approach to her space investigation, according to Carnegie Science Institute. By studying the gas and dust that forms the intergalactic medium, the astronomer searches for tiny fluctuations in density that through billions of years eventually formed the galaxy as we now it.
And she has no plans to stop.
“Further studies of the potential formation mechanisms, long-term dynamical survival, and detectability of submoons is encouraged,” Kollimeier concludes in the two-page paper.