Exo-Io: volcanic exomoon in orbit around WASP-49 b? Space

Exo-Io: volcanic exomoon in orbit around WASP-49 b?

WASP-49 is a yellow dwarf star, somewhat smaller than the Sun and, in the grand scheme of the universe, just as unimportant as our own home star, so that up to now it hasn’t even been given a proper name. Astronomers also know it as “2MASS J06042146-1657550” or “TYC 5936-2086-1.” The fact that it also has the relatively short and catchy name of WASP-49 is thanks to the “Wide Angle Search for Planets”: WASP is an international cooperation that operates two autonomous telescopes. In 2011, researchers analyzing data from these telescopes discovered a planet orbiting this star, 550 light-years…
Have you ever seen a moon being born? Astrophysics

Have you ever seen a moon being born?

It starts with a cloud of gas and dust. The cloud contracts into a disk and a star ignites at its center. Planetoids form around the star in the protoplanetary disk and grow into planets. Around the planets, in turn, are dust disks that eventually form moons. Up to that last step, this theory of solar system formation had long been confirmed by observations. But no telescope had yet discovered a dust disk around a planet. Now one has. ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array made the first such observation in the young solar system of PDS 70, which is…
Exoplanets have pretty moons too Space

Exoplanets have pretty moons too

Nobody really believes that our Solar System is the only one with moons. But the existence of moons in other star systems has only been a hypothesis up until now. So-called exomoons are particularly difficult to find, because they are smaller than their host planets (which is, of course, in their nature) and they follow complicated paths due to their orbits around their planets and, in turn, around their stars. Such objects are usually identified by measuring the occultation caused when they pass in front of their star (transit method). Nevertheless, the Hubble Space Telescope has now finally found…
Life on distant moons? Life

Life on distant moons?

In the search for Earth’s siblings, astronomers often focus on rocky planets, and for good reason: in our Solar System, planets similar to Earth are located only in the habitable zone. But this does not have to be the case in other solar systems. There, gas giants as big as Jupiter or even bigger could be located in the habitable zone of their host star. The habitable zone might even be larger in these systems, because these giant planets could also provide energy to the moons in their orbit. (more…)