Astronomers have found a second moon outside Solar system

07 October, 2018, 17:43 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Astronomers think they’ve discovered the first “exomoon” – a moon outside of our own solar system

Two Columbia University researchers presented their tantalizing evidence for a moon Wednesday. "That demands a higher level of rigor and skepticism than you would normally apply to a run-of-the-mill detection".

In a paper published to Science Advances, two scientists from Columbia University in the United States put forward their evidence indicating the existence of a Neptune-sized exomoon orbiting a Jupiter-sized planet 8,000 light years away. No one, however, has ever conclusively found an alien moon. The journal's deputy editor, Kip Hodges, praised the researchers for their cautious tone, given the hard and complicated process of identifying an exomoon. He points out that our moon - the one with the astronaut footprints - does more than just inspire poets.

And when E.T. phones home, there's no reason that home couldn't be a moon. Such gargantuan moons do not exist in our own solar system, where almost 200 natural satellites have been catalogued.

NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes have uncovered what could be the first exomoon. In 2021 NASA is going to launch into space telescope James Webb to take a closer explore these planets - for example, to look for biosignatures that would indicate the presence of life on them. What popped out was Kepler-1625b. "We can expect to see really tiny moons", Kipping said. If we can also detect exomoons reliably, that possibility increases dramatically.

Compelling evidence have been found on the existence of the moon, orbiting a gas-giant planet, 8,000 light-years away from Earth. This was hard for Kipping, who said in a press release that he could barely contain his excitement during testing. The planet goes around the yellow parent star every 287 days at the same distance as the Earth orbits the sun. The planet appeared to make its transit earlier than expected, suggesting that the gravity of something was tugging on it.




Researchers detect exoplanets by observing the reduction in the brightness of the star they orbit. The first exomoon is obviously an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence. This new moon - if it exists - is also very big, about the size of Neptune.

"A companion moon is the simplest and most natural explanation for the second dip in the light curve and the orbit-timing deviation", NSF Graduate Fellow Teachey said. "But moving forward, I think we open the door to search for such worlds", said Teachey.

Jupiter itself has over 70 known moons, and four of these are comparable in size to our own, so multiple moon signals are not unexpected from exoplanet systems.

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.

Both bodies lie within Kepler 1625's habitable zone, where moderate temperatures allow for the liquid water on solid planetary surfaces. "If confirmed, this finding could completely shake up our understanding of how moons are formed and what they can be made of". They were also looking for a second, smaller, dimming, which would signify the existence of a moon trailing behind it. However, unlike the rocky moons in the solar system, the exomoon is gaseous, which means that it may have been created through a different process.

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