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Planets without stars might have moons suitable for life

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NOORDWIJK, THE NETHERLANDS — Life might arise in the darkest of places: the moon of a planet wandering the galaxy without a star.

The gravitational tug-of-war between a moon and its planet can keep certain satellites toasty enough for liquid water to exist there — a condition widely considered crucial for life. Now computer simulations suggest that, given the right orbit and atmosphere, some moons orbiting rogue planets can stay warm for over a billion years, astrophysicist Giulia Roccetti reported March 23 at the PLANET-ESLAB 2023 Symposium. She and her colleagues also report their findings March 20 in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

“There might be many places in the universe where habitable conditions can be present,” says Roccetti, of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany. But life presumably also needs long-term stability. “What we are looking for is places where these habitable conditions can be sustained for hundreds of millions, or billions, of years.”

Habitability and stability don’t necessarily need to come…

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