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Scientists formulate model to trace elusive exo-moons from JWST data

Newdelhi:18/8/22:Scientists have developed a model to trace the so far elusive exomoons – natural satellites that revolve around exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun) with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched in December 2021. This may also help detect habitable exo-moons in the future and understand new worlds beyond our own.

So far, five thousand exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, have been discovered by using several ground-based and space telescopes such as Kepler, CoRoT, Spitzer, and Hubble space telescopes. However, the natural satellites or exomoon around any of these planets still remain untraced.

The Solar system is constituted of a large number of natural satellites with various sizes and mass, and many of them influence the ambient environment of the Solar planets. Therefore, a large number of exomoons are expected to be present, and they may play a crucial role in the habitability of rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of their host stars. While most exoplanets are detected through photometric transit method, signals from exo-moons are too weak to detect mainly because of their extremely small size.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, have demonstrated that the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is sufficiently powerful to detect the transit signal of exomoons in the photometric light curves of moon hosting exoplanets.

Professor Sujan Sengupta and his graduate student Suman Saha have developed an analytical model that uses the radius and orbital properties of the host planet and its moon as parameters to model the photometric transit light curve of moon-hosting exoplanets by incorporating various possible orientations of the moon-planet-star system.

The co-alignment or non-coalignment of the orbits of the planet and the moon are used as parameters (using two angular parameters), and they can be used to model all the possible orbital alignments for a star-planet-moon system. Using these generic models and the analysis of photometric transit light curves of exoplanets that is being obtained by JWST, a large number of exomoons can be detected in near future. According to the researchers, an exo-moon around a gas giant planet like Jupiter in the habitable zone of the host star where temperature is appropriate for water to exist in liquid state may harbour life. Under favourable alignment of moon-planet-star, such exomoon may also be detected by JWST. The research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, which is published by the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

About Editor in chief

Ashok Palit has completed his graduation from Upendranath College Soro, Balasore and post graduation from Utkal University in Odia Language and literture.. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a scribe of eminence after joining the profession in 1988. He is also an independent media production professional. He brings loads of experience to Advanced Media, Ashok Palit as a cineaste has been active in film criticism for over three decades. As a film society activist, he soared to eminence for his profound commitment to the art film appreciation and aesthetics of cinema. His mode of discourse is often erudite but always lucid and comprehensible marked by a perfect acumen so rare in the field. A film aesthete with an immense fond of critical sensibilities, he wrote about growth and development of odia cinema in New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Screen. He has been working as an Editor for Cine Samaya from 2002-2004.. He had made solid contribution on cinema in many odia Dailies and weekly such as Samaj, Prajatantra, Dharatri, Samaya, Satabadi, and weekly Samaya.

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