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06 October 2018, 11:27 | Justin Tyler
First moon outside our solar system discovered, astronomers think
According to a recently released study by the Columbia University, astronomers found the first moon outside our solar system. They were amazed instead by how different this moon was from the roughly 180 known in our solar system.
Astronomers may have detected the first moon outside the solar system, around 8,000 light years from Earth, Reuters reported on Thursday.
However, the pair are cautious about confirming the find as an exomoon and say more observation is needed. These observations were confirmed in the new work, the results of which are published in the journal Science Advances. This was hard for Kipping, who said in a press release that he could barely contain his excitement during testing.
However, the finding is both promising and intriguing. Kepler-1625b Exomoon vs Solar System MoonsThe exomoon is much larger than the biggest moon of the solar system, Jupiter's Ganymede.
Astronomers have discovered a large gaseous body, which is the size of Neptune and unlike any moon seen so far. Other moons, such as Neptune's largest moon Triton, may have been captured from the Kuiper belt. The exoplanet is a gas giant, several times more massive than Jupiter. It is gaseous and orbits a gas planet 10 times the mass of Jupiter.
"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.
Only one planet held promise for hosting a moon, one around the star known as Kepler-1625, which is about the size of our sun but older.
For Teachey and Kipping, the best and simplest explanation is that Kepler-1625b has a moon.
Dr Kipping said this was consistent with "a moon trailing the planet like a dog following its owner on a leash".
Unfortunately, the scientists' time on Hubble ended before they could completely observe the second transit.
Using Hubble, they also detected that the planet entered transit 1.25 hours earlier than was predicted. This also happens with Earth, the moon and the sun. While Kepler has not detected a second planet in the system, it could be that the planet is there, but not detectable using Kepler's techniques. Scientists monitored the planet before and during its 19-hour transit across the face of the star.
"It was a shocking moment to see that light curve - my heart started beating a little faster and I just kept looking at that signature". "But we knew our job was to keep a level head testing every conceivable way in which the data could be tricking us until we were left with no other explanation".
The researchers note the planetary wobble could be caused by the gravitational pull of a hypothetical second planet in the system, rather than a moon.
"Furthermore, the size we've calculated for this moon, about the size of Neptune, has hardly been anticipated, and so that, too, is reason to be careful here", Teachey said. They made a decision to look at exoplanets with the widest orbits, or those that take about 30 days to circle their stars.
Once the planet completed its orbit, astronomers watched another decline in brightness for around 3.5 hours.
They estimate the surface temperature of both to be 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
How such a moon would form, however, is the big question. No one, however, has ever conclusively found an alien moon. The object has a mass about 1.5% that of the planet - a similar mass-ratio as the Earth and moon.
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