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Strange life could thrive on the moons of these 121 huge planets



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An illustration by an artist of a potentially habitable exomoon orbiting a giant planet in a distant solar system.


NASA GSFC: Jay Friedlander and Britt Griswold

In recent years there has been a great deal of excitement over the discovery of thousands of exoplanets, including dozens, which may have the right conditions to support life . But new research indicates that a number of moons around huge planets beyond our solar system could also be living places.

An international team of scientists has identified 1

21 gas giant planets, each of which is at least three times as massive as Earth, orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars and expected to host several large moons.

That's I thought that most planets are not life-friendly because of their composition and extremely heavy gravity, but they could be orbited by moons more like Earth. In fact, Jupiter's moon Europa is a top target in the search for life beyond Earth . The icy world hides an underground water ocean where interesting things can swim.

In our solar system, giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn orbit far beyond the habitable region that we enjoy here on Earth, but in other star systems it can not be the giant planets hanging in the "Goldilocks Zone" cold and not too hot.

"Including rocky exo moons in our search for life in space, the places we can see will expand significantly," said Stephen Kane, associate professor of planetary astrophysics at the University of California, Riverside, in a news release on Wednesday ,

Kane is co-author of an article on the findings that are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Some speculate that these exo moons may be even more favorable to life than our own home planet. This is because moons are not only dependent on the energy of a sun, but also receive energy from the planet they are orbiting in the form of reflected radiation and tidal energy. (Tidal forces help protect the hidden oceans on Europe and Saturn's moon Enceladus from freezing solids.)

"These potentially terrestrial giant satellites could be the perfect hosts for life to form and seize," she said Newspaper. The catch is that so far no exomons have been confirmed by direct observation, though some astronomers have come close. The new research essentially creates a database of the well-known giant planets in the habitable zone, which are worth a closer look.

"Follow-up studies will help determine future telescope designs so that we can recognize these moons, study their characteristics, and then search for vital signs," said Michelle Hill, a student at the University of Southern Queensland and lead author of the newspaper.

We may not have to wait for new telescopes to look for the male (or female or bacterial) in the Exomoon. Next generation observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope could give us our first direct view of a moon beyond our solar system.

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