Planets and space events distract most stargazers away from the wonderful world of moons. These satellites have a life of their own. Far from being dead rocks, moons can be lethal and make music. Some are not even solid.
It is not just their unique features and abilities that tell astronomers more about space but also their absence. In recent years, several intriguing old mysteries about our own Moon have also been solved.
An unusual study posed a question so obvious that it is surprising that nobody asked this before. Can a moon have a moon?
There are no such submoons in our solar system, but the notion produced interesting results and names. Suggested terms for these missing bodies included moonmoons, moonettes, moonitos, and moooons. Whatever scientists end up calling them, their absence could fill in a few blanks about moon formation and the Earth’s solar system.
The 2018 study found that submoons had it tough. Tidal forces and a lack of orbiting space would end up destroying the mini moon. There are also factors that could help it survive—being really small while orbiting a really big parent moon. The latter must not be too close to the host planet and have enough gravity to keep the baby moon in place.
It also remains a mystery why several moons in the solar system qualify but have no minions. If scientists can answer that one, it might add valuable pieces to understanding celestial formations during the earlier stages of the solar system.
9 Earth’s Dust Moons
Over 50 years ago, a big scientific controversy began. Theoretically, there are gravitational points between Earth and the Moon where objects can remain stable. The most likely kind of bodies predicted were “dust moons.” Technically called the Kordylewski dust cloud, scientists have argued over its existence for decades.
In 2018, the first signs appeared that something was orbiting Earthlike moons. The initial step involved computer simulations to understand the cloud’s formation and how it scattered light. This ability to reflect light gave researchers the first real chance to detect the elusive dust.
A digital camera was adapted with special filters and installed at an observatory in Hungary. The images revealed the strongest evidence yet that Earth had satellites other than the Moon. Even better for scientists, the snaps picked up on not one but two Kordylewski cloud “moons.”