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Pandora plus Endor: Multi hab-moon motherworld discovered

Ewok v Na'vi space wars at faraway giant planet?

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Call SETI and tell them to swing the Allen Array round!

The exomoon expert seems cautiously hopeful:

"In terms of life, moons residing in the habitable-zone of their star are exciting candidates," he says. "However, so far we have only seen life appear on one body, the Earth. We cannot really say how likely it is that life, let alone intelligence, would evolve in individual systems.

"Having said that, I would not be surprised if SETI [the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence] add CoRoT-9 to their list of priority systems and start listening for signals."

Of course, both Jupiter and Saturn have many moons, not just one like Earth: the two mega-planets are the centres, almost, of small pocket star systems.

If Corot-9b were similarly well-endowed with moons, they would all be potentially habitable. This raises the intriguing prospect of multiple inhabited moons - either home to separately-evolved life, or alternatively due to life spreading from one moon to another.

If intelligent life did arise in such circumstances, the presence of other habitable worlds nearby would surely be a terrific spur to the development of space travel. Intermoon voyages would be far easier than interplanetary or interstellar ones, too.

Even where only one moon originally had life, it seems at least feasible that soon others would be seeded and then colonised until Corot-9b had several inhabited worlds in orbit about it, conducting space trade - perhaps even space wars - with one another.

We asked Kipping to comment on the likelihood that even now intermoon conflict may be seeing Ewok or Na'vi space battlefleets locked in mortal combat off the roiling atmospheric deeps of Corot-9b. Sadly, he remained pretty noncommittal.

"At this point, all we know is that a habitable moon is a plausible possibility. I would expect a single large moon to be stable but whether a whole system of moons is possible remains an unanswered question right now," he says.

Even so, if we were the boss of SETI we'd be focusing the Allen Telescope Array on Corot-9 toot sweet.

For those with enough brains to handle it, the Corot-9b research is now published in hefty boffinry mag Nature. You can also read it free here in pdf, courtesy of the ESO's Dr Boffin. ®

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