First evidence of moon outside our solar system: Astronomers

First evidence of moon outside our solar system: Astronomers

The team found two signs, which suggested that Kepler-1625b has an exomoon.

This artist's impression depicts the exomoon candidate Kepler-1625b-i, the planet it is orbiting and the star in the centre of the star system. They will use the Hubble Space Telescope for more observations in May 2019 to confirm their finding.

But the scientists behind this discovery are hesitant to confirm that the new find is an exomoon due to some of its peculiarities and the fact that more observation is needed. "We didn't think we had enough to claim a discovery", says Kipping.

While some may want to define such a massive moon as a planet caught in a binary system with Kepler 1625b, the researchers define it as a moon since its mass is only 1.5 percent that of the planet it orbits, roughly the same as Earth and our moon.

According to The Guardian, the so-called "aktolun" has a size that is approximately equal to Neptune. In this search, a moon would have been among the easiest to detect because of its large size. Kipping and Tichy noticed a unusual anomaly in the data concerning the transit of the gas giant Kepler 1625b, which is several times more than Jupiter.

Teachey and co-author David Kipping, an assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia, published their findings in the journal Science Advances on October 3.

While both the host planet and its moon are within the habitable zone of their star (Kepler 1625) but it's thought that they are both gaseous and therefore incapable of supporting life as we know it. At this size, the moon, tentatively designated Kepler-1625b-i, is likely to be gaseous as well. They observed a dip in Kepler-1625's brightness when the planet and then the exomoon passed in front of it.

Kipping said that's how the Earth and moon would appear from far away.

Unfortunately, the scientists' time on Hubble ended before they could completely observe the second transit. Second, the transit time of Kepler-1625b happened earlier than expected, which may have been caused by an exomoon that makes the exoplanet wobble, similar to what the moon does to the Earth. This also happens with Earth, the moon and the sun. In the case of earth and sun, for example, since both bodies have mass, both exert gravitational pull on each other.

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Prof Kipping said. "We can expect to see really tiny moons". These enabled astronomers to derive the masses of the planets directly from the transit light curve.

"It was a shocking moment to see that light curve, my heart started beating a little faster and I just kept looking at that signature", he continued. "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".

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

Once the planet completed its orbit, astronomers watched another decline in brightness for around 3.5 hours.

"That's something more akin to what people are thinking of when they think of an "Avatar" Pandora", he added.

How such a moon would form, however, is the big question.

Another possibility is that the moon, whatever its size, has moved away from its planet over the eons.

The evidence was published in Science, where the authors said: 'We find evidence in favor of the moon hypothesis, based on timing deviations and a flux decrement from the star consistent with a large transiting exomoon.

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