It’s quite likely that, despite the enormous number of planets that we now think inhabit space, the tally of moons will be larger still. Astrophysicist Ignacio Mosqueira works to piece together the way in which the ordinary moons of giant planets – worlds such as Jupiter and Saturn – are built. What physical processes govern how such diverse worlds as Titan and Europa form? Ignacio notes that creating moons is similar to creating planets, and indeed satellite systems are largely akin to planetary systems.
Understanding the history of moons may have much to say about the possible habitats for life, since large moons could, in principle, have both the liquid water and atmosphere necessary for the kind of diverse biology we see on planet Earth. While we usually imagine alien beings living on an Earth-like planet, Ignacio is betting on the possibility that some of them call a satellite home.