Washington: Scientists looking for habitable planets to photograph could have better luck searching for moons, according to scientists.
A moon, which is heated by the pull of its parent planet, could be visible even when the planet is hidden from view.
Powered by gravitational tugging from a planet, these exomoons would remain bright throughout their lifetimes, not just in their youth, which means stars of various ages could be hosting planets with photogenic moons.
Researcher Mary Anne Peters said , that unlike traditional direct imaging, there's no star that would be a bad candidate.
As a moon travels around its planet, the larger body tries to circularize the orbit of the smaller. But if the planet is hosting more than one moon, a power struggle could ensue as the smaller bodies tug at one another.
The resulting heat radiates from the moon, which makes it bright enough to show up in a visual image.
Planets emit heat for only a short time after their formation, limiting how long they can be directly imaged.
First Published: Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 21:07