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Free-floating planets (FFPs) can result from dynamical scattering processes happening in the first few million years of a planetary system's life. Several models predict the possibility, for these isolated planetary-mass objects, to retain exomoons after their ejection. The tidal heating mechanism and the presence of an atmosphere with a relatively high optical thickness may support the formation and maintenance of oceans of liquid water on the surface of these satellites. In order to study the timescales over which liquid water can be maintained, we perform dynamical simulations of the ejection process and infer the resulting statistics of the population of surviving exomoons around FFPs. The subsequent tidal evolution of the moons’ orbital parameters is a pivotal step to determine when the orbits will circularize, with a consequential decay of the tidal heating. We find that close-in ($a \lesssim 25$ RJ) Earth-mass moons with carbon dioxide-dominated atmospheres could retain liquid water on their surfaces for long timescales, depending on the mass of the atmospheric envelope and the surface pressure assumed. Massive atmospheres are needed to trap the heat produced by tidal friction that makes these moons habitable. For Earth-like pressure conditions (p0 = 1 bar), satellites could sustain liquid water on their surfaces up to 52 Myr. For higher surface pressures (10 and 100 bar), moons could be habitable up to 276 Myr and 1.6 Gyr, respectively. Close-in satellites experience habitable conditions for long timescales, and during the ejection of the FFP remain bound with the escaping planet, being less affected by the close encounter.
A free-floating planet (FFP) is a planetary-mass object that orbits around a non-stellar massive object (e.g. a brown dwarf) or around the Galactic Centre. The presence of exomoons orbiting FFPs has been theoretically predicted by several models. Under specific conditions, these moons are able to retain an atmosphere capable of ensuring the long-term thermal stability of liquid water on their surface. We model this environment with a one-dimensional radiative-convective code coupled to a gas-phase chemical network including cosmic rays and ion-neutral reactions. We find that, under specific conditions and assuming stable orbital parameters over time, liquid water can be formed on the surface of the exomoon. The final amount of water for an Earth-mass exomoon is smaller than the amount of water in Earth oceans, but enough to host the potential development of primordial life. The chemical equilibrium time-scale is controlled by cosmic rays, the main ionization driver in our model of the exomoon atmosphere.
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