Discovered First Compelling Evidence For A Moon Outside Our Solar System

Hubble finds compelling evidence for a moon outside the Solar System - Neptune-sized moon orbits Jupiter-sized planet

The data indicate an exomoon the size of Neptune, in a stellar system 8000 light-years from Earth.

Moons are abundant in our own solar system, with close to 200. In the real-world search for exoplanets - worlds orbiting around stars other than our own - despite finding over 3,800 confirmed planets and over 5,000 unconfirmed candidates, the one thing that has remained elusive is evidence for an exomoon- a natural satellite orbiting around one of those planets.

The more powerful and precise Hubble telescope detected a second and smaller decrease in starlight 3 ½ hours after the planet passed in front of the star - "like a dog following its owner on a leash", as Kipping put it.

Astronomers utilizing NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Kepler Space Telescope have gathered captivating proof for the being of a moon orbiting a gas mammoth planet 8,000 light years away. The Kepler outcomes were sufficient enough for the group to achieve 40 hours of time with Hubble to vehemently study the planet acquiring the data four times more accurate than that of Kepler.

Only two planets in our solar system - Mercury and Venus - don't have moons, Kipping said.

Scientists have reported the first ever discovery of a moon orbiting around an "exoplanet" - a planet that exists outside of the Earth's solar system. The exoplanet is a gas giant, several times more massive than Jupiter [2].

"An extraterrestrial civilization watching the Earth and Moon transit the Sun would note similar anomalies in the timing of Earth's transit", Kipping explained.

The planet and the moon are also in the "habitable" zone, which means they are close enough to their star to be given heat but not close enough to kill life instantly.

It's a moon outside our solar system, which we can't see directly, but when it passes in front of a star the light from that star dims - and that how it's detected. This is because any model of a moon must account for every transit event that has been observed (here, that included transits already observed by Kepler). "It was definitely a shocking moment to see that light curve - my heart started beating a little faster and I just kept looking at that signature", David Kipping described his feelings. These observations ended before a full transit of the moon could be measured.

In a paper in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Southern Queensland identified more than 100 giant planets that potentially host moons capable of supporting life. Still, further observations by Hubble are needed to fully confirm the existence of Kepler-1625b-i.

"This is not by itself a proof of an exomoon", Kipping said.

"It is an exciting reminder of how little we really know about distant planetary systems and the great spirit of discovery exoplanetary science embodies", study co-author Alex Teachey said of the discovery in a statement. Current theories cannot therefore explain how a Neptune-sized moon could have formed in orbit around a Jupiter-sized planet. Or it could have been an object that was captured by the planet's gravity from elsewhere. Another is capture, when objects are captured and pulled into orbit around a large planet - like Neptune's moon Triton, which is believed to be a captured Kuiper Belt object. However, Kepler-1625b and its candidate moon are gaseous, not rocky, so such a collision would not have led to the condensation of a satellite. However, searches are biased toward the largest moons that might be out there, because bigger things are easier to detect. Observations of the light curves made by the Hubble Space Telescope reveals two anomalies, clues that there might be something else lurking there too. Those observations point even more strongly to the discovery of the very first exomoon.

"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", said Dr Kipping, from Columbia University in NY.

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