Our Moon is one of few moons in the Solar System to theoretically capable of hosting its own submoon. Image credit: NASA
This simple question – asked by the four-year old son of Carnegie’s (Institute for Science, Washington D.C., United States) Juna Kollmeier – started it all. Not long after this initial bedtime query, Kollmeier was coordinating a program at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) in California, United States, on the Milky Way while her one-time college classmate Sean Raymond of Université de Bordeaux, France, was attending a parallel KITP program on the dynamics of Earth-like planets. After discussing this very simple question at a seminar, the two joined forces to solve it. Their findings are the basis of a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The duo kicked off an internet firestorm late last year when they posted a draft of their article examining the possibility of moons that orbit other moons on a preprint server for physics and astronomy manuscripts.
The online conversation obsessed over the best term to describe such phenomena with options like moonmoons and mini-moons being thrown into the mix. But nomenclature was not the point of Kollmeier and ...