Suspected Exomoon Spotted 8,000 Light-Years Away

Suspected Exomoon Spotted 8,000 Light-Years Away

Suspected Exomoon Spotted 8,000 Light-Years Away

In a paper published to Science Advances, two scientists from Columbia University in the USA put forward their evidence indicating the existence of a Neptune-sized exomoon orbiting a Jupiter-sized planet 8,000 light years away.

An artist's impression of the gas giant Kepler 1625b with its large moon, Kepler 1625b-i; the pair has a similar mass and radius ratio to the Earth-Moon system but scaled up by a factor of 11.

Since researchers first began detecting exoplanets, or worlds orbiting stars other than our Sun, in the early 1990s, we've gone on to catalogue nearly 3,800 alien planets, with thousands more sightings waiting for confirmation.

David Kipling, assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University, said that this is such a case when such a moon was detected out of our solar system.

Given that both the planet and its potential moon are gas giants, no one is suggesting conditions that might support life.

In flickering light of a distant sun, scientists may have discovered the first moon outside our solar system. The researchers say this may yield new insights into the development of planetary systems and may cause experts to revisit theories of how moons form around planets. So, using the Hubble Telescope, they observed the planet as it passed in front of Kepler-1625. Kipping and Teachey discovered it among 300 exoplanets in Kepler's catalogue, all producing predictable dips in starlight that occur as an orbiting body passes in front of its sun - a phenomenon called a "transit".

With the help of space telescopes "Hubble" and "Kepler" researchers have determined that around the planet Kepler-1625б rotating celestial body the size of Neptune.

Kipping said "We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention". This could cause a wobble in the planet's orbit, causing it to deviate from its predicted location and transit its star earlier than expected.

Jupiter itself has over 70 known moons, and four of these are comparable in size to our own, so multiple moon signals are not unexpected from exoplanet systems. But the team did find a second, much smaller decrease in the star's brightness, consistent with "a moon trailing the planet like a dog following its owner on a leash", Kipping explained.

A moon "is an excellent explanation" for these observations, he said.

In 2017, Kepler detected hints of an exomoon orbiting the planet Kepler 1625b. "But we knew our job was to keep a level head testing every conceivable way in which the data could be tricking us until we were left with no other explanation".

According to The Guardian, the so-called "aktolun" has a size that is approximately equal to Neptune. "When we look for an Earth twin, I think one of the most obvious things you might ask is, 'Does it have a moon twin, ' because that seems to have a large influence", he notes.

Exomoons are hard to find because they are smaller than their companion planet and so their transit signal is weak.

It's possible that rather than being caused by a moon this delay might be the result of another planet in the Kepler-1625 system.

Moons are abundant in our own solar system, with close to 200. During this event, using the Hubble telescope it was measured the systems, like Kepler, it spotted patterns pointing to an exomoon.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: The researchers have requested more time on Hubble to do more observations next May.

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