'First known exomoon may have been discovered'

07 October, 2018, 17:41 | Author: Sidney Guerrero
  • An artist's impression of the exoplanet Kepler-1625b transiting the star with the newly discovered exomoon in tow is shown in this image released

It revolves around a gas giant and nearly does not differ from it in size.

The exoplanet was originally found by the transit technique, in which a planet passing in front of its host star, along our line of sight, causes the star's brightness to dim slightly (by around 1% for a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a sun-sized star) once every orbit.

No such giant moons exist in Earth's solar system.

But these extrasolar satellites had lingered at the limits of detection with current techniques.

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". They believe it's orbiting a gas giant.

Kipping and Teachey relied on the "transit" method already used by researchers to discover almost 4,000 planets outside our solar system, called exoplanets.

Researchers have been studying Kepler-1625b as part of their hunt for exomoons and, out of a pool of 284 exoplanets, Kipping and Teachey found that Kepler-1625b was the best candidate.

"We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention", Kipping stated.

This has helped scientists gain access to 40 hours for a space telescope Hubble.

The researchers monitored Kepler 1625b before and during its 19-hour-long transit across the face of the star.

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The more powerful and precise Hubble telescope detected a second and smaller decrease in starlight 3 1/2 hours after the planet passed in front of the star - "like a dog following its owner on a leash", as Kipping put it.

He says they've requested more time on Hubble to do follow-up observations next May, but they are still waiting on the results of that proposal.

In addition, as a planet and its moon orbit a common centre of gravity, it causes the planet to wobble away from its predicted location.

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.

But Kepler found no evidence for additional planets around the star during its four-year mission, said the researchers.

One of the authors behind the study - David Kipping from Columbia University in the U.S. - has been speculating about the possible existence of exomoons, and describing how they might be detected, for the last ten years. "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". Or maybe its origin story resembles that of the moons of Jupiter, which are thought to have coalesced from a ring of gas and dust that circled the planet. This mass-ratio is similar to the one between Earth and the Moon. In this search, a moon would have been among the easiest to detect because of its large size.

We know there are some 200 moons in our own solar system, including Earth's aptly named "moon". But only one of them, Kepler 1625b, demonstrated the kind of properties that they were searching for-a couple of unforeseen variations from the norm. Of the eight planets, only mercury and Venus they are not. They also shift position with each orbit.

Both anomalies could indicate the presence of a moon in orbit around the planet.

"This would be the first case of detecting a moon outside our Solar System", Dr.

Astronomers used data and observations from the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes to study the distant star, planet and possible moon.

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