Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Astronomers Find First Alien Moon: Its Big And Gaseous

The moon is the size of Neptune More The moon is the size of Neptune More
Frank Williams | 06 October, 2018, 23:29

An artist's impression of the exoplanet Kepler-1625b, transiting the star, with the newly discovered exomoon in tow is shown in this image released on October 2, 2018.

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. Researchers caution that the moon hypothesis is tentative and must be confirmed by follow-up Hubble observations. The potential first exomoon that the astronomers have observed is thought to orbit the exoplanet Kepler-1625b. Such an event is called a transit, and has been used to detect numerous exoplanets cataloged to date.

Both anomalies could indicate the presence of a moon in orbit around the planet.

Astronomers David Kipping, from Columbia University in NY and Alex Teachey are reporting and publishing the results Science Advances journal observing all the hypothesis and anomalies, comparing the data they have other planets in the system or stellar activity but they still can not explain the new discovery.

"We saw little deviations and wobbles in the light curve that caught our attention", Kipping said.

So Kipping and Teachey studied the information from NASA's Kepler space telescope, an exoplanet chasing satellite.

Spotting a planet orbiting a star 8,000 light-years away isn't exactly easy, but modern telescope technology has allowed astronomers to accomplish such feats with shocking regularity, especially over the past half decade or so. They noticed that after Kepler-1625B crossed in front of its star there was another decrease in measurable brightness 3.5 hours late. "Unfortunately, the scheduled Hubble observations ended before the complete transit of the moon could be measured". These planets were fixed at the moment when they obscured the light of the star around which revolve.

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Although the planet and its possible moon are within the habitable zone of their star, both are considered to be gas giants and "unsuitable for life as we know it", Kipping said.

"A companion moon is the simplest and most natural explanation for the second dip in the light curve and the orbit-timing deviation", Kipping explained. "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 exomoon is exponentially larger than our solar system's biggest moon. The so-called aktolun much more than the largest moon of the planets in our solar system. They will use the Hubble Space Telescope for more observations in May 2019 to confirm their finding. The planet itself is several times heavier than Jupiter, and its mass, the moon is 1.5% of the mass of the planet. The object has a mass about 1.5% that of the planet - a similar mass-ratio as the Earth and moon. The Earth-moon system formed as a result of a giant impact in the early solar system.

"If confirmed, Kepler-1625b-i will certainly provide an interesting puzzle for theorists to solve", said Kipping.

"To be honest, we never really anxious much about habitability, just because they're both gas giants, so it really wasn't something we spent any effort or time worrying about", Kipping said during Monday's teleconference.

But in this case an early collision with a larger body is hypothesised to have blasted off material that later coalesced into a moon.

Just one star, Kepler 1625, looked promising.

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