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

Cyclopean Masonry: A Mystery of the Ancient World
2014 04 16
They don’t make things like they used to, and that is, in some cases, a monumental understatement. Silly wordplay notwithstanding, there is something to be said for the construction techniques of the old world. Where modern buildings are designed to withstand the elements; wind, temperature extremes, earthquakes and floods, today’s engineers have to strike a balance between economics ...
Megalithic Origins : Ancient connections between Göbekli Tepe and Peru
2014 04 16
At 6,500 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years before the pyramids were constructed, a cult megalithic complex sat atop the hills near current day Sanliurfa, in southeast Turkey. Göbekli Tepe was flourishing an astonishing 12,000 - 14,000 years ago, and today, the preserved remains still exhibits high degrees of sophistication and megalithic engineering skill. Back in the 1990’s when ...
Department of Transportation Uses LRAD Sound Cannons Against Drivers
2014 04 16
The Missouri Department of Transportation revealed two newly acquired LRAD sound cannons this week, which will reportedly be used to target vehicles that speed in work zones. Coming in at $25,000 a piece, the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon best know for its use against protesters and insurgents in Afghanistan, will alert drivers to road conditions by shooting a loud ...
An ’Unknown Holocaust’ and the Hijacking of History
2014 04 16
An address by Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, delivered at an IHR meeting in Orange County, California, on July 25, 2009. (A report on the meeting is posted here.) We hear a lot about terrible crimes committed by Germans during World War II, but we hear very little about crimes committed against Germans. Germany’s defeat in May ...
Ex-Mayor Bloomberg Starting $50 Million Gun-Control Network
2014 04 16
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control. The initiative’s political target is the powerful pro-gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, that spends millions of dollars each year to back gun-rights supporters. Bloomberg’s group, called Everytown ...
More News »