Friday, 14 December, 2018

Astronomers may have discovered first moon outside our solar system

An illustration shows a moon orbiting around a planet as the pair cross the face of their host star An illustration shows a moon orbiting around a planet as the pair cross the face of their host star
Kristen Harrington | 06 October, 2018, 23:24

Astronomers may have detected the first moon outside the solar system, around 8,000 light years from Earth, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Alex Tichy (Alex Teachey) and David Kipping (David Kipping) from Columbia University reported the discovery of azospermia by the Hubble space telescope. Astronomers are requesting more time on Hubble in May 2019 to try to confirm their results.

"The fact is, it's so unusual and it's the first of its kind", says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University.

"If this finding stands up to further observational scrutiny, it represents a major milestone in the field of astronomy", Hodges said.

Teachey and Kipping relied on the "transit" method, which is already used by researchers to discover almost 4,000 planets outside our solar system, called exoplanets.

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Just one star, Kepler 1625, looked promising. Yet there were weird signatures in the flicker of this far-flung star system. This has helped scientists gain access to 40 hours before the Hubble space telescope.

In October, the astronauts sent the Hubble Space telescope, trying to verify or exclude the findings of scientists from Columbia University. Passing along with the planet on the background of its star, they make a very weak contribution to the change in its brightness, to the same place for more complex trajectories and give less clear signal.

The astronomers stated that the 'exomoon, ' which is a natural satellite that orbits an exoplanet or another non-stellar extrasolar body, is located eight thousands of light-years from Earth.

The new exomoon is about the size of Neptune, which has a diameter four times bigger than Earth's and is 17 times as enormous. "But we were unable to find any other single hypothesis which can explain all of the data we have", said Kipping.

Still, the astronomers were astonished by their discovery.

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According to The Guardian, the so-called "aktolun" has a size that is approximately equal to Neptune. Any larger, and this planet would technically be a brown dwarf.

While describing the signs of the exomoon, the researchers said that firstly, three and a half hours later when the planet passed by, Hubble telescope records showed the second smaller dimming of the brightness of the star, which suggested a smaller object like the moon. It is gaseous and orbits a gas planet 10 times the mass of Jupiter.

It's not like the exomoon in "Avatar" or Endor from "Star Wars", Teachey said, "but going forward, I think we're opening doors to finding worlds like that". 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.

If indeed a moon, it would be about 3 million kilometres from its planet and appear twice as big in its sky, as the moon does in ours. What popped out was Kepler-1625b. The moons of Jupiter and Saturn on the other hand coalesced from the debris left behind after the planets formed. That means this star, and the planet and moon it shines upon, were probably much cooler in the past, Kipping said. However, to confirm the presence of the moon, still have to do a lot of work. The same technique has previously been employed to determine the masses of planets in systems with multiple transiting planets, where each planet tugs the others, giving rise to such variations in timing.

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