Thousands of scientific papers are published every year without the public really noticing them. It takes something pretty special for one to cross over to a mainstream audience. And that’s what has happened with a paper written by two scientists who have proposed it is possible for a moon to have its very own smaller moon orbiting it. That’s a very intriguing notion that could have real-world applications for how we deploy satellites and understand the formation of planetary systems. But that’s not why we’re writing about it. We’re writing about it because these moons of moons are called “moonmoons.” Yes,
At least that has become the popular term to describe the potential phenomenon written about in a paper (we first learned about at
As for the actual science of moonmoons, Kollmeier and Raymond write, “While many planet-moon systems are not dynamically able to host long-lived sub-moons (a very large moon with a very small moon that can avoid being pulled away by a star’s gravity), a handful of known moons are, however, capable of hosting long-lived submoons: Saturn’s moons Titan and Iapetus, Jupiter’s moon Callisto, and Earth’s Moon.”The mere possibility of them, and their absence from where we might expect to see them “provides important clues to the formation mechanisms and histories of” solar systems. And yes, that all sounds exciting and promising. Just not as exciting as calling them “moonmoons.”What do you think of this silly name? Tell us in the comments below.