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


Astronomers have spotted thefirst-ever "exomoon" outside our solar system - a moon the size of Neptune, orbiting a star 8,000 light years away.

For the first time, astronauts a year ago thought they may have found a moon outside our solar system, and recent observations lend credence to the existence of this exomoon.

Now, David Kipping and Alex Teachey from Columbia University in NY are hoping that in their result and reports have taken every hypothesis in consideration and that they will get independent confirmation and appreciation.

The moon is estimated to be only 1.5 percent the mass of its companion planet - which itself is estimated to be several times bigger than Jupiter. Such large moons do not exist in our own solar system.

"This is a delightful reminder of how little we know about distant planetary systems and how great the spirit of discovery, which embodies exoplanetary science", said one of the study's authors Alex Tichy.

"If confirmed by follow-up Hubble 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 said. Jupiter's moon Ganymede has a diameter of about 3,270 miles (5,260 km). Another is capture, when objects are captured and pulled into orbit around a large planet - like Neptune's moon Triton, which is believed to be a captured Kuiper Belt object.

The event of a planet passing in front of a star is called a transit, and Kepler-1625b's takes about 19 hours.

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. Since they were on a lookout for a second temporary dimming of starlight, the team did a 40-hour observation on the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate further.

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After analysing their data, they found that the planet transit began 77.8 minutes earlier than predicted.

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.

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

"The first ecosistema is an extraordinary statement that requires extraordinary proof", said Columbia University astronomer David Kipping. But there's no evidence of more planets in the system.

In fact, if you focus on the Solar system, there are three possible scenario of the appearance of the satellite: from the material thrown into orbit as a result of collision of the planet with a celestial body, captured by the gravity of a planet or asteroid made of matter left over from the formation of the planet. Kepler-1625b-i is roughly the size of our own ice giant Neptune. They checked about 300 planets for any weirdness that might mean a moon. A faraway observer with a powerful telescope would see our earth-moon system orbiting the sun in a similar fashion. However, both bodies are considered to be gaseous and, therefore, unsuitable for life as we know it.

In an attempt to confirm their original tentative detection, the team behind the new study scheduled high precision measurements of Kepler-1625 with the Hubble Space Telescope, which were carried out in October 2017.

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