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ETpro's avatar

What do you call a moon of a moon?

Asked by ETpro (34563points) August 6th, 2010

If a satellite orbits a planet, it is called a moon. But if a satellite orbits a moon, what is it called? Clearly, Newtonian physics permits such orbital behavior. In fact, in our exploration of our own moon, we put artificial satellites in orbit around it. So if we can do it, nature can too. In the vastness of the Universe, there must be instances of such orbital relationships. But is there a unique name for the moon of a moon?

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22 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

A hanger-on, a sycophant, a parasite, a clinging vine, an artificial satellite?

Randy's avatar

A mooooooooon?

gailcalled's avatar

Or the three-body problem. I would imagine that a small moon in orbit around a slightly larger moon would have a short life as its orbit degrades.

ucme's avatar


jfos's avatar

I propose “noom.”

MacBean's avatar

Hm… A moon².

BoBo1946's avatar

Blue Moon!

ucme's avatar

@BoBo1946 Can’t be, I saw that one standing alone XD

BoBo1946's avatar

@ucme loll…great song.

Blue moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own
Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for someone
I really could care for
And then suddenly appeared before me,
the only one my arms could ever hold
I heard somebody whisper ‘please adore me’
But when I looked, that moon had turned to gold –
oh oh oh Blue moon, now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own
Without a love of my own (Blue moon)

ucme's avatar

@BoBo1946 Always makes me think of American Werewolf in London.

BoBo1946's avatar

@ucme loll…got’cha!

AstroChuck's avatar

I think it would just be called a moon. I remember about ten years ago astronomers discovered a moon orbiting an asteroid. I believe it was referred to as a moon. I know that’s not exactly the same thing but it is in the right neighborhood.

gailcalled's avatar

An asteroidlette? A small stone that orbits a large stone?

Austinlad's avatar

Moon Ami of course.

filmfann's avatar

@Austinlad Just brilliant!

Austinlad's avatar

Why thank you, @filmfann.

gailcalled's avatar

Moon, Jr.?

ETpro's avatar

@gailcalled I thought about that, but rejected the idea because the solar system, with planets in stable orbit around the sun, and moons in stable orbit around it, basically mirror the situation I am envisioning. They have been maintaining orbit now for over 4.5 billion years. Moon, Jr. It’s got a nice ring, but Carl’s Jr. would probably sue.

@jfos I like noom. GA! If we ever find one, I will be sure to propose it and attribute the name to you.

@MacBean Nice, but difficult to type on a computer keyboard. You have to remember those alt codes. :-)

@BoBo1946 Nice try. You certainly don’t find one in a blue moon, but as @ucme points out, that one’s already taken.

@AstroChuck Some moons will obit anything these days. Thanks. GA. BTW, we now have found 104 asteroid satellites.

@YARNLADY Bingo! It appears that generic name would cover this situation, as well as many other satellites of natural origin.

@Austinlad Ha! GA

BoBo1946's avatar

@ETpro dang…messed up again!

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