Science

First suspected 'exomoon' discovered 8K light-years away

First suspected 'exomoon' discovered 8K light-years away”

The world that appears to be the first moon detected outside the solar system, orbits a gas planet which is more bigger than Jupiter.

Scientists may have detected the first moon orbiting a planet in a far-off solar system, though they caution that they still want to confirm the finding with another round of telescope observations.

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. Despite its size, the mass of Kepler-1625b-i is estimated to be only 1.5 percent of the mass of its companion planet (Kepler-1625b).

After all, even in our own solar system, some of the most intriguing places to search for life are moons like Enceladus and Europa, which seem to have oceans of water beneath their icy crusts.

The celestial object has a diameter of about 49,000 km, more than nine times the size of Jupiter's Ganymede, which is the largest moon in the solar system. This catalog included 284 planets found by Kepler with wide orbits around their host stars. The mass ratio between the exomoon and Kepler-1625b is similar to the ratio between the moon and Earth. 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. 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".

That was enough for Kipping & Co.to snag 40 hours with the Hubble for intensive study of the planet, collecting data four times more precise than the Kepler telescope.

Kepler 1625b and its satellite, however, are gaseous, not rocky, and, therefore, such a collision may not lead to the condensation of a satellite. Unfortunately, the scheduled Hubble observations ended before the complete transit of the candidate moon could be measured and its existence confirmed.

An illustration of the exoplanet Kepler-1625b with the moon astronomers believe is orbiting it. "But we knew our job was to keep a level head and essentially assume it was bogus, testing every conceivable way in which the data could be tricking us".

Astronomers were looking for a uniform brightness change of the planet, indicating the presence of the satellite, and also observed gravitational effects.

The possible moon was documented by Kepler, the powerhouse planet-hunting space telescope, when it cast a shadow by crossing in front of a star.

Last October, they observed the exoplanet's fourth transit around its star with Hubble, and it confirmed their findings.

In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, the scientists report the candidate moon is unusually large - potentially comparable to Neptune. Such gargantuan moons are unknown in our own Solar System.

"It's raising new questions about sort of the dynamical processes that go on to create the planets and moons", Teachey said. They made a decision to look at exoplanets with the widest orbits, or those that take about 30 days to circle their stars. These observations have to be done from space; the rotation of Earth means that ground-based telescopes spin away from their targets before they can capture a whole event.



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