Astronomers uncover moon orbiting a gas-giant planet 8,000 light-years away

Astronomers may have discovered the first exomoon

Astronomers may have discovered the first exomoon

"It's big and weird by solar system standards", David Kipping, an astronomy professor at Columbia University, gave his opinion on the moon, " It is known as an exomoon because it is outside our solar system". What popped out was a planet called Kepler-1625b, a Jupiter-sized world that orbits a star around 8,000 light-years away.

Astronomers may have found the first moon outside our solar system, a gas behemoth the size of Neptune. Or maybe its origin story resembles that of the moons of Jupiter, which are thought to have coalesced from a ring of gas and dust that circled the planet. If it is verified to be the first moon discovered outside of our Solar System.

However, study co-author Alex Teachey, also of Columbia, admitted that the potential exomoon discovery is far from a slam dunk: "We are urging caution here". The new alien moon is roughly the size of Neptune, which has a diameter four times larger than Earth's and is 17 times as massive. The exomoon's mass is about 1.5 percent that of its planet. After the transit ended, Hubble detected a second, and much smaller, decrease in the star's brightness approximately 3.5 hours later. 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.

The researchers requested time on the Hubble Space Telescope, and their request, which was public, generated a bit of excitement among those who follow new planet discoveries.

"We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention", Dr. On the other hand, the scientists agreed that another planet in Kepler-1625b's vicinity might also cause such turbulence.

Since moons outside our solar system - known as exomoons - can not be imaged directly, their presence is inferred when they pass in front of a star, momentarily dimming its light.

It's not like the exomoon in "Avatar" or Endor from "Star Wars", Teachey said, "but going forward, I think we're opening doors to finding worlds like that".

Later, the team used the powerful lens of the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the planet and found a pair of unexpected abnormalities.

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Clearly, an exomoon may contribute an additional transit signal of its own, but for an object comparable in size to the Earth's moon, the extra dimming will only amount to around ten parts per million - making it hard to detect.

For Teachey and Kipping, the best and simplest explanation is that Kepler-1625b has a moon. "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".

Scientists are convinced that have received the exact proof of the existence of the moon orbiting the exoplanet Kepler-1625b. Of the eight planets in our solar system, only Mercury and Venus have none.

Moons are abundant in our own solar system, with close to 200.

Another planet could cause the same gravitational nudge, the researchers noted, although Kepler observations have come up empty in that regard.

"Both bodies, however, are considered to be gaseous and therefore unsuitable for life as we know it", Kipping said.

"Unfortunately, the scheduled Hubble observations ended before the complete transit of the moon could be measured", Kipping said.

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

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