Among the most sought-after prizes in astronomy these days are "exomoons," or moons orbiting exoplanets. Although astronomers have detected more than a thousand exoplanets, any exomoons they might harbor have so far eluded capture. However, judging by our own Solar System, where moons greatly outnumber planets, scientists believe that hordes of exomoons are indeed out there.
To find these exomoons hiding in plain view, a new technique has just been proposed. Described in a study recently accepted in The Astrophysical Journal, the new approach relies on a particular eclipsing effect of moons when viewed against the background radiance of their host stars.
Unlike traditional exomoon hunting techniques, the new method has the advantage of being able to find natural satellites on the scale of the moons here in the Solar System. Other methods can probably only yield exomoons several times the mass of the biggest moon known, Jupiter's Ganymede — in other words, unprecedentedly monstrous moons.