Scientists Find What Could Be A History-Making Moon

Scientists Find What Could Be A History-Making Moon

Scientists Find What Could Be A History-Making Moon

The exomoon candidate has been officially called Kepler-1625b-i, but its discoverers have nicknamed it the "Nept-moon", since it's predicted to be the size of Neptune.

Over the last 30 years, astronomers have discovered over 3,500 "exoplanets" - planets orbiting stars other than the Sun - but this is the first evidence of an exomoon. We won't know for sure until researchers can do more tests, of course, but even so, what we do have is very promising.

Unlike some notable space discoveries, this find wasn't random; Mike Wall at Space.com reports that Columbia University astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey were doggedly hunting for exomoons-a truly challenging feat-when they found the beast.

Given that both the planet and its potential moon are gas giants, no one is suggesting conditions that might support life. Such large moons do not exist in our own solar system. They will use the Hubble Space Telescope for more observations in May 2019 to confirm their finding. 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. 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. A mass ratio that is similar to that of Earth and the Moon.

During a transit period, in which the planet passed in front of its star, Hubble detected a second decrease in the star's brightness after the planet.

The researchers then used the Hubble Space Telescope to closely monitor the star in question, monitoring the light closely as the planet made a 19-hour transit.

Dr Kipping explained: "We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention".

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Kepler 1625b was found to start its orbit over an hour early, a marker that something with generally solid gravity is pulling on it, substituting its focal point of gravity and influencing its orbit.

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 will take more observation with the Hubble to confirm it. "The first exomoon is obviously an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence", said Teachey. They found no evidence for exomoons in the vast majority of the systems, but Kepler-1625 showed tantalising signs of the tiny dip in brightness that constitutes an exomoon signature.

In addition, as the planet moved in front of the star, the star's light dimmed too much. "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".

The transit timing variation seen in the Kepler-1625b data could similarly be due to the presence of an unseen outer planet, perturbing the orbit of the gas giant. "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.

According to The Guardian, the so-called "eczema" has a size that is approximately equal to Neptune, writes UNIAN. In the case of the Earth-Moon system and the Pluto-Charon system, the moons are thought to be created through dust leftover after rocky planetary collisions.

It was spotted in data from Nasa's Kepler spacecraft, and later observed using the Hubble telescope. Of the eight planets, only mercury and Venus they are not.

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