Imagine a moon running away from home after orbiting a distant exoplanet for millions of years. What happens when the moon leaves their planet? Could a moon leave its planet?
Where could a moon go? Although the universe might look chaotic, gravitational laws are run our universe. Here are answers to some of these questions.
Once a moon goes out into the big universe it ends up circling a star instead of the planet. According to a new paper, a moon that becomes a planet is called a ploonet.
Scientists are not sure how common ploonets are but they know under which circumstances this can happen. In the case where there is a huge gravitational force, a moon orbiting a planet can be between a huge planet and a star when its planet is orbiting near to the star. In these cases of a great gravitational pull, a moon can simply migrate from their home planet and orbit around the star.
The scenario is explained and published in a paper on Arxic which was led by the planetary scientist and researcher Mario Sucerquia from the University of Antioquia in Colombia. The theory about ploonets is interesting and intriguing, however, there is one thing we should keep in mind. No astronomer has ever found proof of a ploonet yet. Moreover, we have never detected a moon outside of our solar system. This might seem strange when you think about our neighborhood planet, Jupiter which has at least 16 moons. How come we never managed to detect a moon around a planet outside of our solar system? Most astronomers believe that our telescopes are not strong enough to detect moons in other solar systems. Our telescopes are not able to collect information about the tiny amounts of light or detect changes in the movement of planets which could indicate the existence of moons.
Nevertheless, we should remain optimistic. Let’s just remember that only 30 years ago our telescopes were not as advanced as they are today. Only a few decades ago, we were lucky if we could catch a glimpse of giant planets orbiting around distant stars. Today, we can detect Earth-sized planets or even smaller ones. Thanks to the improvements in technology we are one step closer to understanding the universe and in only a few generations, we might detect moons around smaller planets orbiting around other suns.
What about the interesting idea of ploonets. Computer simulations showed that ploonets would have a difficult time after escaping their planets. If the star is near the planet and the moon, the hot star would evaporate any atmosphere on the ploonet. According to the computer simulations, even the ploonet itself might start evaporating. Also, ploonets might be able to keep their orbit around their star for a few hundred million years which is not an insignificant time when compared with the circumstances of their new orbit. It would also be possible for the ploonets to pick up some material around the star and even become a bigger moon/planet. However, most of the ploonets probably would not get too far. It’s more likely that they would get eaten by a hot star or even ejected into cold space in a few million years. That might seem like a long time by our human standards, but it’s a short time for the universe standards which is approximately 13.7 billion years old, and a few million years is just a tiny lifetime.
We might spot a ploonet soon. Astronomers suggest that ploonets are probably hiding in strange light emissions which can be seen from distant stars. We will keep waiting for more news on ploonets.