Monday, 17 December, 2018

Moons Can Have Moons and They're Called Moonmoons

You'll Never Guess What Scientists Want to Call The Moon of a Moon Bigger Moons Have Moons, And Some Are Calling Them 'Moonmoons'
Cary Marshall | 14 October, 2018, 06:42

Twitter, for one, has glommed onto the satisfying un-hyphenated term "moonmoon", which was suggested by New Scientist magazine, and the memes have already begun. However, what makes this really interesting is that the scientists even imagined how to call the moons of a moon.

Imagine our sun as a cake, the planets orbiting around it as cupcakes, and the moons orbiting them as minicupcakes.

Astronomers Kollmeier juna (Juna Kollmeier) from the Carnegie Institute and Sean Raymond (Raymond Sean) from the University of Bordeaux called these bodies "sublunary" (submoons).

But that's okay. The paper lays good groundwork for future research into the possibility of moonmoons, and also helps us understand the formation histories of planets and their satellites. Along with moonmoons, they could also be called submoons, moonitos, moonettes, or moooons. And, they suggest, we should see if the recently discovered candidate exomoon circling Kepler 1625b has its own moon as well.

Kollmeier and Raymond dubbed a moon orbiting a moon a "submoon" in their study but as expected, the internet has better ideas.

And, given the difficulty in detecting even a moon outside the Solar System, our chances of spotting an exomoonmoon are, for the time being, pretty much zero.

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"While many planet-moon systems are not dynamically able to host long-lived submoons, the absence of submoons around known moons and exomoons where submoons can survive provides important clues to the formation mechanisms and histories of these systems", the researchers wrote in their paper. In a paper presented at the online library of preprints arXiv.org they lead the preliminary calculations of the conditions under which this is possible.

"In all known planetary systems, natural satellites occur in a restricted dynamical phase space: planets orbit stars and moons orbit planets". But doesn't "moonmoon" have a nice ring to it, too?

Whatever comes out on top-moonmoons, grandmoons, moon-squareds, nested moons or who knows what-astronomers need to prove they exist before we call them anything.

But other scientists are using the far more delightful term moonmoon, so that's what we're going to go for.

I guess the only question now is can moonmoons have moonmoonmoons?

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