Sure, it could be called a “submoon.” But doesn’t “moonmoon” have a nice ring to it, too?
Astronomers Juna Kollmeier and Sean Raymond, from the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the University of Bordeaux, respectively, published a working paper Tuesday exploring the possibility that moons could have moons of their own, according to Gizmodo.
The paper is not yet peer-reviewed, so it’s only in the early steps. But Kollmeier and Raymond wrote that they found the idea possible, at least when the sizes work out. They found the orbits would be stable with 10 kilometer-scale moons orbiting larger, 1,000 kilometer-scale moons, according to the paper.
If the sizes don’t match up just right, the smaller moon would be ripped away from the larger moon and shot into space or toward the planet the moon was orbiting.
“We’re really just scratching the surface here with how we can use the absence of submoons to figure out our early history,” Kollmeier said, according to Gizmodo.
In their paper, the scientists settled on “submoon” for the name of their prospective discovery, but Kollmeier said she was “delighted” by other possible names, including Moonlet, Moonmoon, Moonito, Moonette, Moonlet, Grandmoon, and Metamoon.
But “moonmoon” is the name that has really taken off across the web. Hundreds of jokes and memes spread across Twitter within hours of the paper’s publication and an article in the New Scientist.
The scientists won’t be the ones to decide the name. That honor would go to the International Astronomical Union, according to Quartz.
But Kollmeier said the researchers were excited that their research had grabbed hold of the public’s attention.
“The internet is having a blast with the name which is A) totally unexpected, and B) super fun! People need a little fun,” she said, according to the Huffington Post. “I’m super excited about this – by doing calculations of possible submoon trajectories and comparing known architectures, we may learn a lot more about the solar system which is fantastic.”