University of Bern, Switzerland | 2019 Aug 29
A rocky extrasolar moon (exomoon) with bubbling lava may orbit a planet 550 light-years away from us. This is suggested by an international team of researchers led by the University of Bern on the basis of theoretical predictions matching observations. The “exo-Io” would appear to be an extreme version of Jupiter’s moon Io.
Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active body in our solar system. Today, there are indications that an active moon outside our solar system, an exo-Io, could be hidden at the exoplanet system WASP-49b. “It would be a dangerous volcanic world with a molten surface of lava, a lunar version of close-in super-Earths like 55 Cancri-e,” says Apurva Oza, ... “a place where Jedis go to die, perilously familiar to Anakin Skywalker.” But the object that Oza and his colleagues describe in their work seems to be even more exotic than Star Wars science fiction: the possible exomoon would orbit a hot giant planet, which in turn would race once around its host star in less than three days -- a scenario 550 light-years away in the inconspicuous constellation of Lepus, underneath the bright Orion constellation.
- Artist's composition of a volcanic exo-Io undergoing extreme mass loss. The hidden exomoon is enshrouded in an irradiated gas cloud shining in bright orange-yellow, as would be seen with a sodium filter. Patches of sodium clouds are seen to trail the lunar orbit, possibly driven by the gas giant's magnetosphere. © University of Bern, Illustration: Thibaut Roger
Astronomers have not yet discovered a rocky moon beyond our solar system and it’s on the basis of circumstantial evidence that the researchers in Bern conclude that the exo-Io exists: Sodium gas was detected at the WASP 49-b at an anomalously high altitude. “The neutral sodium gas is so far away from the planet that it is unlikely to be emitted solely by a planetary wind,” says Oza. Observations of Jupiter and Io in our solar system, by the international team, along with mass loss calculations show that an exo-Io could be a very plausible source of sodium at WASP 49-b. “The sodium is right where it should be,” says the astrophysicist. ...
Sodium and Potassium Signatures of Volcanic Satellites
Orbiting Close-in Gas Giant Exoplanets ~ Apurva Oza et al
- arXiv.org > astro-ph > arXiv:1908.10732 > 28 Aug 2019