Astronomers Find First Alien Moon: Its Big And Gaseous

06 October, 2018, 23:31 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • The moon is the size of Neptune More

In a stellar system 8000 light-years from Earth, astronomers have found the first compelling evidence for a Neptune-sized moon orbiting a Jupiter-sized planet.

The new moon is bigger than any of the nearly 200 natural satellites that have been found in our own solar system and it has been discovered when the researchers monitored exoplanet Kepler-1625b as it was passing in front of its parent star.

We are still discovering dwarf planets within our own solar system, and astronomers have spent the past 30 years trying to locate an exomoon, but to no avail.

According to Dr Kipping, 3.5 hours after the planet's transit ended, the Hubble telescope recorded some gravitationally dragging as the a second smaller dimming of the star's brightness happened again and it was noticed that the apparent moon, known as Kepler 1625b-i, orbits some three million kilometers from the planet.

The moon is estimated to be only 1.5 per cent the mass of its companion planet, which itself estimated to be several times the mass of Jupiter.

In the Solar system known eight major planets and their satellites about 200.

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 candidate exomoon - signs of which were spotted by NASA's Kepler and Hubble space telescopes - may have similarly edged away from its planet over time, so it could have been much closer billions of years in the past, Kipping said.

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NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Even in our own solar system, some of the most intriguing places to hunt for life are moons, like Enceladus and Europa around Saturn and Jupiter.

Although the object itself can not be seen, there are hints it exists, according to the researchers: The planet moves around its star in a way that indicates something else is pulling on it gravitationally, probably a moon. In order to find a suggestive signal of an exomoon, Kipping and Teachey was looking for a heavenly body to pass in front of the parent star's light and dip and a delay in the planet passing in front of its star. At this size, the moon, tentatively designated Kepler-1625b-i, is likely to be gaseous as well. However, the observation period ended before aktolun has completed its turnover. When analyzing transit data on Kepler-1625b, they saw anomalies suggesting the possible presence of a moon.

Dr Kipping said this was consistent with "a moon trailing the planet like a dog following its owner on a leash". "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".

In theory, this could be the result of the gravitational pull from a hypothetical second planet. "Both bodies, however, are considered to be gaseous and therefore unsuitable for life as we know it", Kipping added.

This was first observed through the Kepler telescope and then confirmed by the Hubble telescope on October 28th and 29, 2017.

The exomoon is exponentially larger than our solar system's biggest moon. All the planets in our solar system except Mercury and Venus have moons.

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".

Scientists from Columbia University have discovered the first accespoint exoplanets beyond our Solar system. They chose to look at exoplanets with the widest orbits, or those that take about 30 days to circle their stars.


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