The detectability of habitable exomoons with Kepler

  • Supachai Awiphan

Student thesis: Master of Science by Research


Over 750 extrasolar planets have been discovered, but none of them have detected moons around them. From recent studies, the applications of transit exoplanet detection techniques called Transit Timing Variation (TTV) and Transit Timing Duration (TDV) have been proposed to use for exomoon detection. Furthermore, from the success of the Kepler mission, the number of transiting exoplanets has increased rapidly. Therefore, investigating the detectability of exomoons via TTV and TDV with the Kepler mission is timely. In this dissertation, the detectability of a habitable-zone exomoon orbiting around a giant planet in M-Dwarf system is investigated. Light curves of 146,410 systems with various configurations were simulated around M-Dwarf hosts of mass 0.5 Msun and radius 0.55 Rsun. Jupiter-like giant planets which offer the best potential for hosting habitable exomoons were considered with rocky Earth-mass moons. The detectability is measured by using the phase-correlation between TTV and TDV signals. The Kepler photometric noise is all accounted for in the analysis in order to find the exomoon detectability. From simulation results, super-Earth-size habitable exomoons in M-Dwarf systems may be detectable with Kepler. The detectability depends on the intensity of the TDV signal more than the TTV signal. High-mass moons orbiting low-mass planets should be the best candidates for detection. However, under certain conditions, aliasing in between the planet period and the moon period may prevent exomoon detection, due to incomplete moon phase information.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEamonn Kerins (Supervisor) & Timothy O'Brien (Supervisor)


  • Kepler
  • Transit
  • Exoplanet
  • Exomoon

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