Published: Sun, October 07, 2018
Sci-tech | By Laverne Osborne

Astronomers Find First Evidence of Possible Moon Outside Our Solar System

Astronomers Find First Evidence of Possible Moon Outside Our Solar System

In looking for exomoons, the researchers analysed data from 284 Kepler-discovered planets that were in comparatively wide orbits, with periods greater than 30 days, around their host star.

For the first time, astronauts previous year thought they may have found a moon outside our solar system, and recent observations lend credence to the existence of this exomoon.

Astronomers at Columbia University, David Kipping and Alex Teachey, were involved in this discovery.

Plenty of planets exist beyond our solar system, but a moon around one of those worlds has yet to be confirmed.

Lead author Mr Teachey, a graduate fellow in astronomy, said: "A companion moon is the simplest and most natural explanation for the second dip in the light curve and the orbit-timing deviation".

However, this moon is unusual because of its large size, which is more comparable to the diameter of Neptune. Through the Hubble, the team studied Kepler-1625b as it passes between the star that it is orbiting, which is Kepler-1625, and the Earth. Another is capture, when objects are captured and pulled into orbit around a large planet - like Neptune's moon Triton, which is believed to be a captured Kuiper Belt object.

Researchers detect exoplanets by observing the reduction in the brightness of the star they orbit. Kepler uses the transit method, which involves measuring the regular dimming of a star's light caused by an orbiting planet passing in front of it, to indirectly detect exoplanets.

To gather more precise data on the odd system the researchers monitored in October 2017, during Kepler 1625b's next transit for 40 hours. Other convincing evidence in favor of the obvious discovery was that the planet passed in front of its star an hour earlier than they predicted. This would be the first moon found outside the Solar System, as indicated by a new study distributed in the journal Science Advances. Kipping explained it as, "a moon trailing the planet like a dog following its owner on a leash".

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He says they've requested more time on Hubble to do follow-up observations next May, but they are still waiting on the results of that proposal.

An artist's impression of the exoplanet Kepler-1625b, transiting the star, with the newly discovered exomoon in tow is shown in this image released on October 2, 2018.

Hubble also provided supporting evidence for the moon hypothesis by measuring that the planet began its transit 1.25 hours earlier than predicted.

Like its moon, Kepler 1625b is also bigger than its counterparts in the Solar System. "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". Such gargantuan moons are unknown in our own Solar System.

Even though they lie within their system's habitable zone, both the exoplanet and the exomoon are gaseous and thus unsuitable for life.

Planet-hunting missions like Kepler, she notes, have found plenty of gas giants orbiting stars at a cozy distance.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: The researchers have requested more time on Hubble to do more observations next May. Beyond about 4,000 planets, and satellites - no: too hard to find them at such great distances.

It was spotted in data from Nasa's Kepler spacecraft, and later observed using the Hubble telescope.

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