Moons and Exoplanets: The Same or Different Species?

Researchers using a new model are looking at what the second largest moon in our Solar System, Titan, would be like if it was in orbit around a Sun-like or Dwarf Star. How much would Titan change? Could it harbor life?

1508 Views | Published on 10th Apr, 2018

The search for exoplanets began more than 30 years ago and once evidence for these objects began to accumulate, the number of confirmed planets has increased dramatically. As the surveys and searches continue, the plethora of types of exoplanets also has become fascinatingly diverse. Having discovered the "Hot Jupiter" type of planets, researchers now looking for smaller and colder objects.

Taking a lesson from our own solar system, it does appear that things that might qualify as planets elsewhere might be moons in our own system. Take for example Saturn's moon Titan, and also Jupiter's moon Ganymede. These objects may harbor water and conditions conducive to life.

What if we found such objects around other stars? We probably would call them planets if they orbited the star rather than a large gas planet. What is it that qualifies an object as an exoplanet and what types of distant objects might actually be able to support some sort of life?

Join Tony Darnell and Carol Christian during Afternoon Astronomy Coffee on April 12 at 3PM Eastern time as they discuss with Juan Lora (UCLA), Tiffany Kataria (JPL), and Peter Gao (UC Berkeley) how they are creating models of such objects to understand the atmospheric characteristics and chemistry of exoplanets that have more uncommon with the moons of our solar system than the objects we call planets.

Summary of the Live Stream:

Titan is an excellent candidate to study how atmospheres change depending on the host star. Titan is the only body in our solar system besides the Earth that can harbor a stable liquid. In Titan's case, that liquid happens to be methane, but still...

Titan is just a little larger than the planet Mercury and could exist as a planet in it's own right rather than a moon. In our solar system however, it is a moon of Saturn but what would the atmosphere of Titan be like if it were in orbit say, around the Sun?

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