Can Moons Have Moons?

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Monday, October 8, 2018

Juna A. Kollmeier, Sean N. Raymond

(Submitted on 8 Oct 2018)

Each of the giant planets within the Solar System has large moons but none of these moons have their own moons (which we call submoons). By analogy with studies of moons around short-period exoplanets, we investigate the dynamical stability of submoons. We find that 10 km-scale submoons can only survive around large (1000 km-scale) moons on wide-separation orbits. Tidal dissipation destabilizes the orbits of submoons around moons that are small or too close to their host planet; this is the case for most of the Solar System's moons. A handful of known moons are, however, capable of hosting long-lived submoons: Saturn's moons Titan and Iapetus, Jupiter's moon Callisto, and Earth's Moon. Based on its inferred mass and orbital separation, the newly-discovered exomoon candidate Kepler-1625b-I can, in principle, host submoons, although its large orbital inclination may pose a difficulty for dynamical stability. The existence, or lack thereof, of submoons, may yield important constraints on satellite formation and evolution in planetary systems.

Comments: 3 pages including 1 figure

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1810.03304 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1810.03304v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Juna A. Kollmeier  

[v1] Mon, 8 Oct 2018 08:10:39 GMT (181kb)

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