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Searching for New Moons

You'd think that astronomers would be searching for new planets, but what they're REALLY interested in is MOONS. They suspect that if life really does exist elsewhere in the universe, the moon of another planet might be a good place to find it.

Why search for moons instead of planets? There are a lot more of them, and they also might be more habitable. Planets in close orbit to their stars risk becoming "locked," with one permanently hot hemisphere and another one that is permanently cold, something that's not good for the development of life. Although a moon may become locked to its parent planet, it can never be locked to a star, so it will always have some sort of day-night cycle.

In February NASA will decide whether to pay for a new planet-hunting spacecraft called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Unlike our current Kepler space scope, which stares at a single patch of space, TESS would survey the whole sky, which would make both planet hunting and moon hunting easier.

The Economist writes: "No one can say whether life is more likely on moons than on planets--but astronomy stands ready to answer such questions over the coming decades. Humans assume that the way things are on Earth is the way things must be. Science is there to help them widen those narrow minds."

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