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Large Water-Rich Moons around Super-Jovian Planets

19 May 2015, 22:00 UTC
Large Water-Rich Moons around Super-Jovian Planets
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Large moons similar in size to the planet Mars (0.53 Earth radii) or Jupiter’s moon Ganymede (0.41 Earth radii) should be detectable in the available dataset of photometric measurements by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Super-Jovian planets (i.e. planets more massive than Jupiter) appear to be abundant at ~1 AU around Sun-like stars (i.e. 1 AU is the distance of Earth from the Sun). At these distances, temperatures are just right for large moons around these planets to potentially support life. As a result, it is worth considering whether super-Jovian planets at ~1 AU around Sun-like stars can host large moons that are habitable.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a gas giant planet like Jupiter with a system of moons orbiting it.A study by Heller & Pudritz (2015) predicts that water-rich Mars-mass moons can form around super-Jovian planets that lie beyond ~5 AU around Sun-like stars. Jupiter-mass planets that form closer than ~4.5 AU to Sun-like stars are unlikely to form water-rich moons because their accretion disks are less massive and depleted of water-ice. However, a super-Jovian planet with 12 times the mass of Jupiter can potentially form water-rich moons as close as ~3 AU to a Sun-like star as its accretion ...

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