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To the Exomoon and Back

Texas physicists discover a new way to search for life in outer space

Super Moon 2!  (Houston, Texas) August 2014
Recent super moon sightings have brought renewed interest in outer space. Rachel Harvey/Twitter

Although the concept of colonizing the Earth's moon has fallen out of fashion, the search for life beyond our planet is still very much in vogue. Scientists with the University of Texas at Arlington believe they've discovered a new way to seek out possible life-sustaining locations in outer space.

In a paper published in The Astrophyiscal Journal, a team of UTA physicists theorize that following radio waves may lead to the discovery of exomoons, or moons outside of our solar system.

 Even though scientists have discovered around 2,000 exoplanets, the existence of an exomoon has never been confirmed.

According to the researchers, even though scientists have discovered around 2,000 exoplanets, the existence of an exomoon has never been confirmed. Moons are good candidates for potentially supporting life, and such a discovery would be groundbreaking.

Through detailed calculations based on Jupiter's magnetic field and its moon, the scientists developed a way to use radio wave emissions to create a trail to potential exomoons.

"This is a new way of looking at these things," UTA physics professor Zdzislaw Musielak said in a statement. "We did the calculations and they show that actually there are some star systems that if they have moons, it could be discovered in this way."

Radio wave emissions have already been used to discover exoplanets, but UTA's exomoon twist on the theory opens up a different application. The study even identifies two exoplanets that are good candidates for having exomoons similar to the size of Earth's moon.

"Most of the detected exoplanets are gas giants, many of which are in the habitable zone," co-author Suman Satyal said. "These gas giants cannot support life, but it is believed that the exomoons orbiting these planets could still be habitable."

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