A new project is searching for moons outside our solar system that may contain alien life.
Astrobiologists view moons like Enceladus and Europa to be the most likely places for extraterrestrial life in our solar system. So, it only makes sense to look for life on exomoons as well.
The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK) is a new initiative, led by David Kipping at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, that uses data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope to identify exomoons that might support life.
But before looking at Kepler data, HEK astronomers use NASA’s Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center to simulate billions of possible star-planet-moon arrangements. Then, as Space.com explains, they “compare the results with actual data taken with NASA’s Kepler telescope, which monitors the brightness of stars in an effort to find exoplanets that could harbor life. If one of the simulated combinations matches the Kepler data, that area warrants further exploration.”
NASA describes, “The discovery of exomoons—moons situated beyond our own solar system—would add to the growing list of celestial objects detected by the Kepler telescope that could potentially harbor life in some form.”
So far, NASA says the team has “surveyed 56 of about 400 identified Kepler planet candidates that could have a detectable exomoon.” The team will continue to survey the remaining exomoon candidates over the next two years.
HEK scientists surmise, “If such habitable moons are possible, then there could even be more habitable moons than habitable planets.”