Scientists have identified 121 exoplanets that may potentially host exomoons that are capable of supporting life. Earth is still the only planet known to be able to support life. However, scientists have been finding exoplanets that orbit in the habitable zone of their host star.
This is only a small portion of the thousands of exoplanets that have been found since the launch of the Kepler telescope in 2009.
Exoplanets That May Have Moons With Life
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside and the University of Southern Queensland published their results in The Astrophysical Journal. They were able to identify which exoplanets could potentially have habitable exomoons.
Some of the targets of the search for habitable planets include rocky planets that are similar to Earth, these planets may have an atmosphere and have similar geological conditions. Gas giants are also identified because they may have rocky moons, like Jupiter, that may be able to host life.
One of the authors of the study, Stephen Kane of the University of California, Riverside, says that given the 175 known moons that are found in this solar system there may be some found in the habitable zones of other star systems. He adds that even though this isn't the case in this solar system, that this system may be the exception rather than the rule.
The 121 planets identified by the researchers are gas giants just like Jupiter and Saturn which host a majority of the moons found in the solar system. All of the exoplanets are more than three times the radii of Earth. Scientists expect that each of the exoplanets hosts several large exomoons.
Lead author of the study Michelle Hill from the University of Southern Queensland says that the researchers created a database of the gas giants found in habitable zones. They hope to refine the list of planets to figure out which have the potential for hosting exomoons.
This isn't the first time that those searching for life look to recently discovered exoplanets. A research team from Tokyo identified 15 exoplanets that included a super-Earth planet that was located in the system's habitable zone. It was found that this planet had the possibility of having liquid water on its surface. The only problem was that the planet orbited a red dwarf star.
This limits the size of the habitable zone of the star. This proximity to the red dwarf would tidally lock the world meaning one side is always facing the red dwarf severely limiting how habitable it is by creating erratic weather conditions on the planets.