Hubble Telescope Supports Evidence of Distant Exomoon

Theresa Obrien
October 7, 2018

The satellite in question, roughly the size of Neptune, lies around 8,000 light-years away from earth and it might mark the very first time astronomers have found a moon orbiting around an exoplanet. The moon, which orbits a giant exoplanet called Kepler-1625b, is incredibly large, comparable to the size of the gas giant Neptune in our solar system.

The team behind this intriguing discovery evaluated more than 250 planets outside our solar system which had been discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.

The two researchers, from New York's Columbia University, examined data on 284 planets outside our Solar System and only one of them, Kepler-1625b, showed evidence it may host a moon.

Given the conditions of that planet and its potential moon are gas giants, it is impossible to think that this planet could support life. If it is verified to be the first moon discovered outside of our Solar System.

"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. The moon of Jupiter Ganymede has a diameter of about 5 260 km is estimated, the detected aktolun has a diameter of about 49 000 km.

Even Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has a radius that is less than 5% that of its parent planet, and while it's true that the Earth and moon have a size ratio of about four to one, they are both rocky bodies. So, using the Hubble Telescope, they observed the planet as it passed in front of Kepler-1625.

To spot exoplanets, astronomers look at their host stars, and wait for a planet to pass between the starlight and observers on Earth.

Dr Kipping explained: "We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention".

The pair of scientists were able to use their observations to secure 40 hours time on the Hubble space telescope. First, Kepler 1625b begins its transit of the star over an hour early, an indicator that something with relatively strong gravity is tugging on it, alternating its center of gravity and affecting its orbit. It was like "a moon trailing the planet like a dog following its owner on a leash", Kipping said.

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"A moon is an excellent explanation to the data at hand", Kipping said.

"The first eczema is an extraordinary statement that requires extraordinary proof", said the astronomer, Columbia University David KPMG.

That planet, called Kepler-1625b, is one of thousands that scientists have recently detected around distant stars.

According to The Guardian, the so-called "aktolun" has a size that is approximately equal to Neptune.

For Teachey and Kipping, the best and simplest explanation is that Kepler-1625b has a moon. Despite finding all those planets, researchers have never detected a moon.

Planet-hunting missions like Kepler, she notes, have found plenty of gas giants orbiting stars at a cozy distance.

NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope could really "clean-up" in the satellite search, .

The researchers believe the star system to be 10 billion years old, which means it's had time to evolve. Of the eight planets, only mercury and Venus they are not. The existence of this moon is only a hypothesis, based on the limited evidence gained from the transit study.

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