Sometimes, moons can escape their planets and continue the journey on their own. Researchers are now calling these particular moons “Ploonets.”
Researchers led by Mario Sucerquia, from the Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia, and Jaime Alvarado-Montes from Australia’s Macquarie University, have created a computer model that explains the likely behavior of giant exomoons that might exist around massive planets. Therefore, they discovered that these exomoons can escape the gravitational attraction of their planets, becoming satellites of their parent stars. Ergo, Ploonets.
In a new paper published in Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, researchers propose the name “ploonet” to describe a large moon that goes rogue.
“This paper explores the scenario where large regular exomoons escape after tidal-interchange of angular momentum with its parent planet, becoming small planets by themselves,” the team writes. “We name this hypothetical type of object a ploonet.”
However, astronomers haven’t detected a single ploonet yet.
You Might Like This: “Forbidden Planet Found in Neptunian Desert“
Astronomers have so far confirmed the existence of at least 4098 exoplanets. But because of the limits of current detection technology, most of them are of a type known as Hot Jupiters. Researchers indicate that at least some of these planets should be home to large moons.
Hot Jupiters are massive planets that orbit extremely close to their stars.
The researchers found that if a moon is rotating around a Hot Jupiter, the gravitational tug of war between the star and the planet could eject the moon from its planetary orbit and send the object circling around the star instead.
The same scenario could happen with the Earth-Moon system. Our moon is getting away from Earth at a very slow rate. So, the moon might eventually enter a much less stable orbit and even go solo and become a Ploonet.
Orbiting a nearby star would be stressful for a tiny ploonet; during its transit, the ploonet’s atmosphere could evaporate and the world would lose some of its mass, creating a distinctive signature in the light emitted from the star’s vicinity, the study said. That’s the signature that telescopes might be able to detect.