Scientists first discovered the moon outside the Solar system

Scientists first discovered the moon outside the Solar system

A year ago a team of researchers led by Columbia University astronomer Alex Teachey said they think they discovered a moon orbiting the planet Kepler-1625b, which is located 2.4 kiloparsecs (roughly 8,000 light-years) from our planet and surrounded by the constellation Cygnus. The world that appears to be the first moon detected outside the solar system, orbits a gas planet which is more bigger than Jupiter.

The hunt for exoplanets - planets outside our own Solar System - provided its first results only 30 years ago.

In the Kepler exoplanet catalog, there are only a few Jupiter-size planets that are farther from their star than Earth is from the sun - good candidates for moons due to the distance.

Now, Columbia University astronomers Alex Teachey and David Kipping have used the incomparable capabilities of Hubble to study the planet and its host star, Kepler 1625.

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. If confirmed, this would be the first discovery of a moon outside our Solar System. They will use the Hubble Space Telescope for more observations in May 2019 to confirm their finding.

To find evidence for the exomoon - dubbed Kepler-1625b-i - the team observed the planet while it was in transit in front of its parent star, causing a dimming of the starlight. Kepler uses the transit method, which involves measuring the regular dimming of a star's light caused by an orbiting planet passing in front of it, to indirectly detect exoplanets. 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. However, the researchers' alloted observation time ended before the planet could complete its transit. In this study, they analysed 284 light curves from the Kepler satellite of planet-hosting stars that were considered to be plausible candidates for systems containing exomoons. This small decrease is consistent with a gravitationally-bound moon trailing the planet, much like a dog following after its owner. "But we knew our job was to keep a level head and essentially assume it was bogus, testing every conceivable way in which the data could be tricking us". The problem is only large planets that orbit close to stars are detectable, and those types of planets typically don't have moons.

The potential moon would be considerably larger than Earth - about the size of Neptune or Uranus. Beyond about 4,000 planets, and satellites - no: too hard to find them at such great distances.

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"That's been a key driver for us for a while, just trying to understand the cosmic habitats out there that we might look for, for life", says Kipping.

"But moving forward, I think we open the door to search for such worlds", said Teachey.

This was first observed through the Kepler telescope and then confirmed by the Hubble telescope on October 28th and 29, 2017.

Various attempts have been made previously to confirm or deny that there is a moon outside our solar system.

In addition to this dip in light, Hubble provided supporting evidence for the moon hypothesis by finding the planet transit occurring more than an hour earlier than predicted.

The researchers believe the star system to be 10 billion years old, which means it's had time to evolve.

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