More than 100 nearby stars are known to have at least one Jupiter-sized planet. Whether any of these giant gaseous planets has moons is unknown, but here we suggest a possible way of detecting Earth-sized moons with future technology. The planned Terrestrial Planet Finder observatory, for example, will be able to detect objects comparable in size to Earth. Such Earth-sized objects might orbit their stars either as isolated planets or as moons to giant planets. Moons of Jovian-sized planets near the habitable zones of main-sequence stars should be noticeably brighter than their host planets in the near-infrared (1-4 μm) if their atmospheres contain methane, water, and water vapor, because of efficient absorption of starlight by these atmospheric components. By taking advantage of this spectral contrast, future space observatories will be able to discern which extrasolar giant planets have Earth-like moons capable of supporting life.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science