Our Moon could soon be leaving us to become a ploonet... Wait, what's a ploonet?

This new theory explains why astronomers have not been able to find exomoons along with exoplanets.

Ploonet is the new word the scientific community has come up with to describe a moon that becomes a planet. A moon can become a planet if it leaves the orbit of its parent planet and takes up residence in a stable orbit around its star.

At this point, this orbiting rock is neither a moon nor a planet, hence the term, ploonet.

This theory explains why astronomers have not been able to find moons that orbit other exoplanets that are gas giants, like Neptune, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Exomoon This artist’s impression depicts the exomoon candidate Kepler-1625b-i, the planet it is orbiting and the star in the centre of the star system. Kepler-1625b-i is the first exomoon candidate and, if confirmed, the first moon to be found outside the Solar System. Like many exoplanets, Kepler-1625b-i was discovered using the transit method. Exomoons are difficult to find because they are smaller than their companion planets, so their transit signal is weak, and their position in the system changes with each transit because of their orbit. This requires extensive modelling and data analysis.

The researchers used simulations to explain that when a Hot Jupiter travels with its moon and gets pulled into a star's orbit, the moon that tagged along detaches from its host planet to start its own orbit around the star. They found that 48 percent of moons detach to form ploonets.

This theory could explain other astronomical phenomena like why sometimes stars flicker and how planets get rings. It could also help in understanding why we have not found any exomoons until now.

Our moon might soon desert us and become a ploonet as well. It is moving away from the Earth at the rate of four centimetres every year, but at that rate, it will take five billion years to actually forsake us. By that time, the Sun would already be on its last legs.

The findings from this study have been published in the journal arXiv.

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