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Detectability of Galilean Moon Analogs with JWST

Presentation #105.01 in the session Future 1.

Published onJun 20, 2022
Detectability of Galilean Moon Analogs with JWST

Although several exomoon candidates have been reported in recent years, each of these objects is significantly larger than any satellite within our solar system, a tension which both raises questions about their reality and emphasizes an apparent absence of recognizable moons. However, this current lack of familiar planetary companions is driven by the fundamental inability of Kepler class photometry to resolve the transit dip of sub-Earth sized satellites, not a genuine shortage of solar system analogs. To investigate whether other orbital observatories can overcome this precision barrier, we created realistic synthetic populations of moons formed by different known pathways using a probabilistic Monte Carlo model, then applied instrument prediction tools to evaluate their detectability. We show how these populations can be used for planning and optimizing exomoon surveys using facilities such as JWST, or as a forward modeling inference tool to contextualize the outcome of future surveys. Further, we demonstrate how the framework is easily adapted to model other thus far difficult to detect transit features, such as planetary oblateness or low inclination ring systems. Finally, we present predictions of exomoon detection yields under different survey designs and their abilities to constrain estimates of the true underlying population. From these, we find that JWST is the first mission capable of detecting solar system analog moons.

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