Despite numerous attempts, no exomoon has firmly been confirmed to date. New missions like CHEOPS aim to characterize previously detected exoplanets and potentially discover exomoons. In order to optimize search strategies, we need to determine those planets which are the most likely to host moons. We investigate the tidal evolution of hypothetical moon orbits in systems consisting of a star, one planet, and one test moon. We study a few specific cases with ten billion years integration time where the evolution of moon orbits follows one of these three scenarios: (1) "locking," in which the moon has a stable orbit on a long timescale (≳109 yr); (2) "escape scenario" where the moon leaves the planet's gravitational domain; and (3) "disruption scenario," in which the moon migrates inwards until it reaches the Roche lobe and becomes disrupted by strong tidal forces. Applying the model to real cases from an exoplanet catalog, we study the long-term stability of moon orbits around known exoplanets. We calculate the survival rate which is the fraction of the investigated cases when the moon survived around the planet for the full integration time (which is the age of the star, or if not known, then the age of the Sun). The most important factor determining the long-term survival of an exomoon is the orbital period of the planet. For the majority of the close-in planets (<10 days orbital periods) there is no stable orbit for moons. Between 10 and 300 days we find a transition in survival rate from about zero to 70%. Our results give a possible explanation for the lack of successful exomoon discoveries for close-in planets. Tidal instability causes moons to escape or being tidally disrupted around close-in planets which are mostly favored by current detection techniques.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
- Pub Date:
- September 2021
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- 65 pages: 18 pages of text with figures, 47 pages of table in appendix. Accepted for publication in PASP