Research ArticleASTRONOMY

Formation of exoplanetary satellites by pull-down capture

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  02 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaaw8665
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw8665


The large size and wide orbit of the recently announced exomoon candidate Kepler-1625b-i are hard to explain within traditional theories of satellite formation. We show that these properties can be reproduced if the satellite began as a circumstellar co-orbital body with the original core of the giant planet Kepler-1625b. This body was then drawn down into a circumplanetary orbit during the rapid accretion of the giant planet gaseous envelope, a process termed “pull-down capture.” Our numerical integrations demonstrate the stability of the original configuration and the capture process. In this model, the exomoon Kepler-1625b-i is the protocore of a giant planet that never accreted a substantial gas envelope. Different initial conditions can give rise to capture into other co-orbital configurations, motivating the search for Trojan-like companions to this and other giant planets.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances