Science and Exploration

Pathways of Survival of Exomoons and Inner Exoplanets

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
February 18, 2023
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Pathways of Survival of Exomoons and Inner Exoplanets
Exoplanet with an exomoon

It is conceivable that a few thousand confirmed exoplanets initially harboured satellites similar to the moons of the Solar system or larger.

Could some of them have survived over the aeons of dynamical evolution to the present day? The dynamical conditions are harsh for exomoons in such systems because of the greater influence of the host star and of the tidal torque it exerts on the planet.

We investigate the stability niches of exomoons around hundreds innermost exoplanets for which the needed parameters are known today, and determine the conditions of these moons’ long-term survival. General lower and upper bounds on the exomoon survival niches are derived for orbital separations, periods, and masses.

The fate of an exomoon residing in a stability niche depends on the initial relative rate of the planet’s rotation and on the ability of the moon to synchronise the planet by overpowering the tidal action from the star. State of the art models of tidal dissipation and secular orbital evolution are applied to a large sample of known exoplanet systems with their estimated physical parameters.

We show that in some plausible scenarios, exomoons can prevent close exoplanets from spiraling into their host stars, thus extending these planets’ lifetimes. This is achieved when exomoons synchronise the rotation of their parent planets, overpowering the tidal action from the stars. Massive moons are more likely to survive and to maintain a high rotation rate of their host planets (higher than these planets’ mean motion).

Valeri V. Makarov, Michael Efroimsky

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2302.04646 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2302.04646v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
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Submission history
From: Michael Efroimsky
[v1] Thu, 9 Feb 2023 14:00:41 UTC (434 KB)

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.