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First moon outside our solar system discovered, astronomers think
06 October 2018, 03:36 | Justin Tyler
Artist’s impression of the exoplanet Kepler 1625b transiting the star with the potential exomoon in tow
"This would be the first case of detecting a moon outside our Solar System", Kipping said.
While the researchers have yet to confirm the presence of an exomoon, they estimate that this moon would be about the size of Neptune.
The research team used the telescope to find small dips in the light of the star orbited by Kepler-1625b and its moon.
In their dedicated search for exomoons, Columbia University astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey have scaled up, looking for the largest possible exomoons, around the largest known exoplanets.
Astronomers have announced the possible discovery of the first known moon outside our Solar System. Kepler-1625b is a Jupiter-sized planet that orbits far enough away from its star-about the same distance Earth is from ours-that a moon could be stable.
"We've tried our best to rule out other possibilities such as spacecraft anomalies, other planets in the system or stellar activity, but we're unable to find any other single hypothesis which can explain all of the data we have", co-author David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in NY, told reporters earlier this week. But because it's so big, the object would be about twice as big in Kepler-1625b's skies as Earth's moon is in ours, Teachey and Kipping said. It's comparable to so-called hot Jupiters, gas giant exoplanets that are closer to their stars than Jupiter is to its own, and warmer. The two worlds together are in an orbit around their parent star that's similar to Earth's orbit around the sun.
"We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention", David Kipping, second author of the study, said. An when Kepler observed each of 284 transiting planets, the telescope showed a short dimming.
To verify this, Kipping and Teachey booked 40 hours of time on the Hubble Space Telescope, to get a finer, more detailed look at light curves from the Kepler-1625 system. Researchers aren't positive at this time that they've found an exomoon - the Hubble observations were scheduled for a set amount of time, which ended before the second transit was complete.
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. However, Kepler 1625b and its moon are gaseous, not rocky, raising questions about how such a moon could have formed in the first place. "We'd be very grateful if we had the means to use James Webb, because then we could really clean up", Kipping said. Teachey concluded: "It is an exciting reminder of how little we really know about distant planetary systems and the great spirit of discovery exoplanetary science embodies".
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. Or it could have been an object that was captured by the planet's gravity from elsewhere.
The exomoon is exponentially larger than our solar system's biggest moon.
They had already dubbed the candidate satellite a "Nept-moon", because of its large size.
 Despite its size, the mass of the candidate moon is estimated to be only 1.5 percent of the mass of its companion planet. This could explain why the moon is 3 million kilometers from its planet; they were probably closer in the past.
"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". Moreover, this additional transit occurred at precisely the expected location to account for the size of the observed transit timing variation.
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