Ploonet – When A Moon Becomes A Planet

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The definition of a planet has remained controversial among the scientific community, but there are a lot of fascinating objects which blurs the lines even more. A team of researchers has discovered a new type of object in the form of a moon which starts its life around massive planets. Over time it moves to a different zone as it starts to change. That’s what scientists call a ploonet – an object which is caught in the middle between a moon and a planet.

Researchers believe that they will pursue a single orbit around the host star while also being visible for specific instruments, including Kepler and TESS. As our moon has started to distance itself at a slow speed, it is now believed that it could become a ploonet in 5 billion years. The chances are a bit slim since the sun will become a red giant within the same timeframe, and it will burn anything in its path as it will expand beyond the current orbit of Earth.

The origins of a ploonet

In the last decades over 4,000 exoplanets were discovered and confirmed while a similar number of candidates were identified. Astronomers were surprised when they observed that a large number of giant exoplanets which are classified as hot Jupiters are located very close to their host stars. The planetary formation was quite impressive in this case since some computer simulations inferred that massive planets could migrate closer to their stars.

During the migration stage, a large number of forces is involved in a conflict, and their power will increase as the planet goes closer to the final position near the star. Recent research suggests that when a planet gets too close to the host star, the gravity of the latter could push some of the moons into a new orbit around the central star, changing their status to ploonets. If they manage to collect some material as they travel, they may evolve into fully-fledged small planets.


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