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

Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
2014-12-20 2:17
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack. Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job. Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
2014-12-20 2:13
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled. Via The Hollywood Reporter: After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move. “The ...
The Bankster International
2014-12-20 1:55
Geopolitical analysis, the art of explaining power relationships through the prism of impersonal geography, can be a helpful tool for observers of the Great Game – but it also has its limitations. A case in point is the renewed US-Russia confrontation. Think tanks and policy insiders easily sell the narrative that from the dark days of the Cold War to ...
Another banker dies under suspicious circumstances
2014-12-20 1:09
52-year-old Belgian Geert Tack – a private banker for ING who managed portfolios for wealthy individuals – was described as ‘impeccable’, ‘sporty’, ‘cared-for’, and ‘successful’ and so as Vermist reports, after disappearing a month ago, the appearance of his body off the coast of Ostend is surrounded by riddles… Impeccable. Sporty. Cared for. Successful. Just some qualifications that are attributed to ...
NATO increases military presence on Russia’s borders
2014-12-20 1:14
The Pentagon has confirmed the military buildup along Russia’s borders to ensure long-term “peace and stability” in the region. Earlier Moscow accused NATO of a sharp increase in air activity and intelligence flights in the border zone. Replying to RIA Novosti’s query on the increased number of NATO flights around Russia’s borders, a Pentagon representative told the news agency that the military ...
More News »