Bigger Moons Have Moons, And Some Are Calling Them ‘Moonmoons’

Oct 11, 2018

By David Barden

Have you ever gazed up at the night sky, looked up at the moon and wondered if it could have a moon of its own?

While you probably haven’t, a curious four-year-old did back in 2015 and on Tuesday, his astronomer mom and one of her colleague’s published a paper that essentially says: Yes, a moon can have its own moon.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Juna Kollmeier AKA ‘The Junaverse’ told HuffPost that while none of the planets’ moons in our solar system currently have moons (that we know of), “Earth’s moon, one of Jupiter’s moons and two of Saturn’s moons” may all have once had moons.

But the real question is: what do you call a moon’s moon?

While Kollmeier and astronomer Sean Raymond referred to them as ‘submoons’ in their paper, the New Scientist has dubbed them ‘moonmoons.’

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2 comments on “Bigger Moons Have Moons, And Some Are Calling Them ‘Moonmoons’

  • The Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Juna Kollmeier AKA ‘The Junaverse’ told HuffPost
    that while none of the planets’ moons in our solar system currently have moons (that we know of),
    “Earth’s moon, one of Jupiter’s moons and two of Saturn’s moons” may all have once had moons.

    I think that is a speculative claim, considering the complexity of Saturn’s system of rings and moons, – and the vast numbers of small interacting rocks which we have not yet mapped. “None that we know of”, is very much the case!
    http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/ast121/lectures/epimetheus_and_janus.html

    .. . . not to mention the moons which orbit Pluto and Pluto’s moon Charon or which may orbit other Kuiper Belt objects which are hard to observe.

    https://www.space.com/16538-pluto-moons-explained-infographic.html

  • I think any “moons of moons” are likely to be in the outer Solar System where gravitational forces are very weak and distances between planetary bodies are great.

    Any moons near a star or near a large planet are (like Mercury) likely to be unable to retain a moon in a stable orbit.

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