Possible discovery of exomoon excites astronomers, but what is it?

A New Presence Outside the Solar System

Possible discovery of exomoon excites astronomers, but what is it?

They added: '[The first exomoon] can not be considered confirmed until it has survived the long scrutiny of many years, observations and community skepticism, and perhaps the detection of similar such objects.

The moon was discovered circling Kepler 1625b, a massive gas giant three times the size of Jupiter orbiting a star in the constellation Cygnus about 8,000 light years away, reports Sarah Kaplan at The Washington Post.

The candidate moon, with the designation Kepler-1625b-i, is unusual because of its large size - comparable to the huge, icy planet Neptune in our solar system.

Although further observations by Hubble are needed to fully confirm the existence of Kepler-1625b-i, as such gargantuan moons are unknown in our own Solar System, if it turns out to be real then it may yield new insights into the development of planetary systems and may cause astronomers to revisit theories of how moons form, said Teachey. These enabled astronomers to derive the masses of the planets directly from the transit light curve. Exomoons also shift position with each transit because the moon is orbiting the planet.

David Kipling, assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University, said that this is such a case when such a moon was detected out of our solar system.

The astronomers found one instance, in Kepler 1625b, that had intriguing anomalies.

NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes have uncovered what could be the first exomoon. This shift in the planet's predicted transit was also picked up by Hubble, adding more weight to the theory that an exomoon was behind the changes. However, the researchers' alloted observation time ended before the planet could complete its transit. About 3.5 hours later, the telescope detected a decrease in the star's brightness, which indicated that the exomoon likely passed by. It clearly indicated a moon that was trailing behind the planet.

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Unfortunately, the scientists' time on Hubble ended before they could completely observe the second transit. Of the eight planets in our solar system, only Mercury and Venus have none. It could be rogue planet caught in the gravity of the Kepler 1625b or, like the moons of Jupiter, it coalesced out of gas, dust and other space debris.

Hints of a moon orbiting the planet called Kepler-1625b were first detected previous year, but the pair used Hubble to analyse the region in greater detail.

"A companion moon is the simplest and most natural explanation for the second dip in the light curve and the orbit-timing deviation", NSF Graduate Fellow Teachey said. My heart started beating a little faster, and I just kept looking at that signature. "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".

Their findings were published in the journal Science Advances. This value is close to the mass-ratio between the Earth and its moon.

Two scientists have found evidence that an exoplanet found by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope may have a Neptune-sized moon orbiting it. 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. But, according to Kipping, neither gaseous object is suitable for life as we know it.

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.

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