Could moons of exoplanets harbour life?  That is a question currently engaging scientists involved in exoplanet identification.

Earthsky.org, a wonderful news feed in need of annual funding, featured a post last month on 121 giant planets identified outside our solar system, whose moons might be habitable.  It’s a big ‘might’.

researchers at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Southern Queensland announced they’ve identified 121 giant exoplanets with orbits within the habitable zone – the zone within which liquid water can exist – of their stars. [earthsky.org]

Giant planets of the Solar System – Jupiter and Saturn – have given us the idea that life could exist under the ice of Titan and Europa.  The exoplanets these scientists have identified are themselves within the habitable zone of their star, so the possibility for any (so far unidentified) moons is fascinating.

What would life on these moons be like?

I’ve already started wondering that, since I’ve set Lars’s birthplace on a moon (called Ulric) of a giant planet.  It’s not necessary to the Viridian System series to know more detail about the effect of a giant ball of planet in the sky as well as a sun of unspecified size and luminosity (although I was thinking dimmer/more distant than ours.  It’s hard enough working out the moon configurations for Sunset Strip (it has two moons) without adding in the complication of a huge neighbour.

When I did a back-story for Lars, I assumed the red reflecting planet was pretty much always in the sky and provided most of their light.  As a result I gave Lars excellent night vision, which is something that I use int he story occasionally.  That he needs contacts for Pleasant Valley and Sunset Strip is a minor detail I haven’t bothered with.  Or maybe he has an eyelid adaptation so he can see in the bright sunshine of his native sun when it comes out from behind the red planet.

I did a brief introduction to the planet Ulric for and A to Z challenge one year. One day I’ll do some more work on this, but I’ll need my planetary science text books to hand when I do!

A part of Lars’ backstory set on Ulric is told in The Inspector Calls.

Moons of Exoplanets – real science
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