Satellites of exoplanets will help determine their habitability

(ORDO NEWS) — The moon is of great importance in shaping the shape of our planet that we know today: the moon regulates the length of the day, as well as the ebb and flow in the ocean, thus affecting the biological cycles of all living organisms on the planet.

The moon also influences the Earth‘s climate, stabilizing the axis of rotation of our planet, as a result of which life finds itself in ideal conditions for development and evolution.

Because the Moon is so important to life on Earth, scientists have speculated that another planet’s moon could favor its potential habitability.

Most planets have satellites, but our planet’s satellite is large compared to the size of the Earth – the radius of the Moon is more than a quarter of the Earth’s radius, while for most planets the ratio between the radius of the satellite and the radius of the parent planet is much smaller.

Miki Nakajima, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, USA, finds this distinction very important. And in a new study led by her, scientists, after analyzing the formation of satellites of planets, come to the conclusion that only planets with certain characteristics are able to form sufficiently large satellites.

Many scientists believe that the Moon, a large satellite of the Earth, was formed as a result of a cosmic collision, when a disk of partially evaporated material formed around the planet. In their study, Nakajima and her team simulated various cosmic collisions using a computer model and found that a disk of partially vaporized material that favors the formation of large satellites only forms when the masses of the colliding planets do not exceed six Earth masses for rocky planets and one Earth, when it comes to ice planets.

In the case of more massive planets, the collision results in a completely vaporized disk of material from which, after cooling, only relatively small planetary satellites can form.

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