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Smaller Than Earth-Sized Exomoon Discovered? 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-no-moon dept.
astroengine writes "Through the technique of microlensing, a candidate exomoon has been discovered in orbit around a free-floating planet about 1,600 light-years away toward the galactic bulge. The microlensing event, MOA-2011-BLG-262, was detected by the MOA-II telescope at Mt. John University Observatory (MJUO) in New Zealand and it appears to have a mass of approximately half that of Earth. The host planet is around 4 times the mass of Jupiter. Unfortunately there cannot be further studies of his particular exoplanet-exomoon pair (as microlensing events are transient and random), so the astronomers who made the discovery are remaining cautious and point out that although the exoplanet-exomoon model fits the data the best, there's a possibility that the lensing object may have been a more distant star with a massive exoplanet in tow. Microlensing surveys are, however, sensitive to low mass exoplanets orbiting massive free-floating planets, so this is a tantalizing first-detection. The study's pre-print publication has been uploaded to the arXiv."
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Smaller Than Earth-Sized Exomoon Discovered?

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  • Winter Homes? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ...'> on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:53PM (#45771675) Homepage

    Free floating planets give me hope. There are use cases for free floating planets. Stars explode. It's nice to know there are some places out there we can have low-maintenance long-term storage options deep inside, safe from cosmic rays or exploding stars -- We might not have to build them from scratch, or worry about how to power EM shields indefinitely. We ever make it off this wet rock before the sun explodes the Andromeda Galaxy will be merging with ours. That's a whole new galaxy full of resources, and it's heading our way. We'll probably need new stars and planets to harvest eventually, so that's a good thing.

    Unfortunately it doesn't look like life on Earth will be able to survive the sun's explosion, and we can't tow the planet in enough time to sling it away for posterity's sake -- Sure would be nice if we could though, maybe it's not impossible, but who can say what a few billion years of new technology will bring. It would be cool to visit the free floating frozen origin of our species rather than let it be fried to a crisp, and/or re-liquefied. The crust just isn't thick enough to burrow down in thanks to our large moon-making collision. C'est la vie.

Those who can, do; those who can't, simulate.