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Pandora-like habitable moons could be real: Astronomer

LONDON (PTI): James Cameron's science fiction 'Avatar' may become fact in the coming years, says a leading US astronomer who believes there is every chance a real-life version of habitable alien moons like the one depicted in the movie exists and will soon be found.

The 3D blockbuster shows a race of blue-skinned giants inhabits an Earth-like moon called Pandora, which orbits a gas giant planet similar to Jupiter that cannot support life.

“If Pandora existed, we potentially could detect it and study its atmosphere in the next decade,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Kaltenegger, who has conducted research showing that a planned new space telescope will be able to identify nearby “exomoons” and discover if they are habitable, said hundreds of Jupiter-sized gas giants orbiting stars have already been spotted, but none have conditions suitable for Earth-type life, The Telegraph reported.

However, a rocky moon orbiting a gas giant could harbour life if it was in the parent star's “habitable zone” – the region where temperatures are just right for liquid water, she said.

“All of the gas giant planets in our solar system have rocky and icy moons. That raises the possibility that alien Jupiters will also have moons. Some of those may be Earth-sized and able to hold onto an atmosphere,” she said.

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