First suspected 'exomoon' discovered 8000 light-years away

First suspected 'exomoon' discovered 8000 light-years away

First suspected 'exomoon' discovered 8000 light-years away

The hunt for exoplanets - planets outside our own Solar System - provided its first results only 30 years ago.

"If confirmed by follow-up observations, the finding could provide vital clues about the development of planetary systems and may cause experts to revisit theories of how moons form around planets", he added. Now, two scientists from Columbia University in New York (USA) have used the incomparable capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study the star Kepler-1625, 8000 light-years away, and its planet in more detail.

It's hard enough to locate and confirm the existence of planets orbiting around distant stars (although the newly launched and operational TESS, and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, will make this easier).

Since planets and satellites orbiting stars do not emit light on their own, it is impossible to directly observe those outside the solar system.

One of the authors behind the study - David Kipping from Columbia University in the United States - has been speculating about the possible existence of exomoons, and describing how they might be detected, for the last ten years. And, based on their earlier data, the researchers would expect the moon to be trailing Kepler-1625b at this point in its orbit. The exoplanet is a gas giant, several times more massive than Jupiter [2]. The pair would have a similar mass and radius ratio to the Earth and its moon but scaled up by a factor of 11. In panel 1, the light curve begins to dip as the planet begins transiting in front of the star.

"A companion moon is the simplest and most natural explanation for the second dip in the light curve and the orbit-timing deviation", Kipping explained.

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The planet was observed by Hubble before and during its 19-hour-long transit.

"It was definitely a shocking moment to see that Hubble light curve, my heart started beating a little faster as I kept looking at that signature". The researchers can't be completely sure, however, since the observation of the moon transit could not be completed. In some configurations, that tug will be in the direction of the planet's orbit around its star, causing the transit to occur sooner than expected. Still, further observations by Hubble are needed to fully confirm the existence of Kepler-1625b-i.

"But going forward, I think we're opening the doors to finding worlds like that", Teachey said.

Astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi says this really could change the way we look at our solar system.

While both the planet and its moon are within the habitable zone of their star (Kepler 1625) it is thought that both are gas planets are therefore incapable of hosting life.

It may have been a wayward planet captured by the larger body.

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"We need a larger sample of exomoons to place this one and our moons in context", Mayorga said.

The bigger the drop in brightness, the larger the size of the object.

Astronomers know of three major moon-formation mechanisms: There's gravitational capture (which appears to be the case with Neptune's biggest moon, Triton); powerful impacts (as happened with Earth's moon, which formed from material blasted into space by a long-ago collision); and the merging of material from a disk of material surrounding a newborn planet.

If confirmed, this will be the first time a moon has been found outside of the solar system, according to a new study detailing the finding in the journal Science Advances. This is because any model of a moon must account for every transit event that has been observed (here, that included transits already observed by Kepler).

In this image from television space shuttle Columbia's robotic arm released the Hubble telescope back into orbit Saturday, March 9, 2002.

Scientists may have bagged the first-ever exomoon.

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