OCTOBER 27, 2018
A sighting by the Hubble Space Telescope
provides more evidence that there’s a
Neptune-sized moon, dubbed Neptmoon,
orbiting the exoplanet Kepler 1625b, Lisa
Grossman reported in “Hubble spies signs
of an exomoon” (SN: 10/27/18, p. 14).
“If Neptmoon actually exists, could
it possibly have moons of its own?”
online reader MAdScientist72 asked.
“And what would we call a moon of a
It’s certainly possible that
Neptmoon could host a moon of its
own, Grossman says. “It would prob-
ably be called a moonmoon, submoon
or, my favorite, an exomoonmoon,”
she says. Those are hypothetical
names — scientists have not yet spot-
ted such a satellite. For Neptmoon
to have an exomoonmoon, the object
would have to be close enough to be
captured by Neptmoon’s gravity, but
not so close that it would get torn
apart, Grossman says.
At least four moons in our solar
system are large enough to play
host, astronomers Juna Kollmeier of
Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena,
Calif., and Sean Raymond of the University of Bordeaux in France reported
online October 8 at arXiv.org. Saturn’s
moons Titan and Iapetus, Jupiter’s
moon Callisto and Earth’s moon could
theoretically host moonmoons.
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Simulations suggest that, if real, the theoretical substance within neutron stars
known as nuclear pasta may be the universe’s strongest material, Emily Conover
reported in “Nuclear pasta is tougher than
steel” (SN: 10/27/18, p. 8).
Gravitational waves produced by
spinning neutron stars could provide
scientists with evidence of nuclear
pasta’s existence. But such spacetime
ripples will occur only if a neutron
star’s crust has mounds, or “
mountains,” of dense material that are tens
of centimeters tall.
Reader Doug Quine asked about
Conover’s word choice. “I would
hardly describe the length of my arm
as the height of a mountain,” Quine
wrote. “I suspect the units should have
been … kilometers.”
The mountains are just centimeters
tall, Conover says. “The reason scien-
tists use the term ‘mountains’ despite
the formations’ diminutive size is
because the gravity of a neutron star
is so strong that something a centi-
meter tall is actually quite an extreme
bump,” she says.
According to a new calculation, the
search for extraterrestrial intelligence,
also known as SETI, has combed the
equivalent of a hot tub’s worth of Earth’s
oceans, Lisa Grossman reported in “Our
search for E. T. hasn’t covered much space”
(SN: 10/27/18, p. 5).
Readers online were fascinated by
the search for life elsewhere in the
“We can’t really explore the ocean
one hot tub at a time,” Mark S. wrote.
“Perhaps a better approach would be
to scan for emissions around each of
the most promising exoplanets that
have been discovered,” he suggested.
“Keeping with the ocean analogy, this
is more like looking for fish around
islands or atolls.”
Scientists’ inability to find intel-
ligent life beyond Earth, despite the
identification of planets beyond our
solar system, emphasized for Robert
Stenton just how unique Earth is.
“We are probably one of the very few
planets to not only have a civilization,
but also unique intelligent life such
as whales and elephants, or beautiful
creatures such as pandas, Bengal tigers
or giant sequoias,” Stenton wrote.
He continued: “Perhaps if nothing
else, we should have learned from
SETI to treasure what we have and
protect all of it, just as we now protect
special habitats by declaring them
national parks. Perhaps we should
declare the whole Earth a ‘Universe
Treasure.’ From what we now know,
even something as lowly as a cockroach may exist nowhere else in the
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Researchers stumbled upon a new
species of coral reef fish (below)
sporting highlighter hues, Helen
Thompson reported in “Meet
a Technicolor creature from
down deep” (SN: 10/27/18, p. 5).
Readers on Twitter thought the
fish belonged to a more colorful
era. “It obviously evolved during
the 1980s,” @Be TheShovel wrote.
“Unreal! I was thinking more like
the ’60s #psychedelic,” replied