Monday, 10 December, 2018


Astronomers uncover moon orbiting a gas-giant planet 8,000 light-years away

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 Astronomers uncover moon orbiting a gas-giant planet 8,000 light-years away
Kristine Garrett | 06 October, 2018, 23:30

The new discovery is estimated, by the two astronomers, twice as large as Earth's moon in the planet's skies and massive as the ice giant Neptune. Kepler is best equipped to find planets that orbit close to their stars, and analyses of orbital dynamics - not to mention the evidence in our own solar system - suggest that moons will be more common further out.

Since researchers first began detecting exoplanets, or worlds orbiting stars other than our Sun, in the early 1990s, we've gone on to catalogue nearly 3,800 alien planets, with thousands more sightings waiting for confirmation.

Unlike some notable space discoveries, this find wasn't random; Mike Wall at Space.com reports that Columbia University astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey were doggedly hunting for exomoons-a truly challenging feat-when they found the beast. The gas giant it presumably orbits has several times the mass of Jupiter.

After all, even in our own solar system, some of the most intriguing places to search for life are moons like Enceladus and Europa, which seem to have oceans of water beneath their icy crusts. The moon of Jupiter Ganymede has a diameter of about 5 260 km is estimated, the detected aktolun has a diameter of about 49 000 km.

To locate the first exomoon, the team looked at data from 284 planets previously discovered in wider orbits using the Kepler space telescope.

"An extraterrestrial civilization watching the Earth and Moon transit the Sun would note similar anomalies in the timing of Earth's transit", Kipping said. After the transit ended, Hubble detected a second, and much smaller, decrease in the star's brightness approximately 3.5 hours later. When a star's brightness dips it's a good indication that something has passed in front of it, and by measuring the light as it wanes it's possible to estimate the size, distance, and nature of the planet. At this size, the moon, tentatively designated Kepler-1625b-i, is likely to be gaseous as well.

The observation period, however, ended before the moon could complete its transit.

Exomoons are the natural satellites of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, of which there are now no confirmed examples. "But we knew our job was to keep a level head testing every conceivable way in which the data could be tricking us until we were left with no other explanation". In the case of earth and sun, for example, since both bodies have mass, both exert gravitational pull on each other. But, according to Kipping, neither gaseous object is suitable for life as we know it.

Dr. Kipping and Teachey have already made the detection pretty clear now they have to wait a long time because of the orbit in order to see the next transition.

He said, "We hope to re-observe the star again in the future to verify or reject the exomoon hypothesis".

All of this makes sense if a huge Neptune-sized moon is orbiting Kepler 1625b. During this event, using the Hubble telescope it was measured the systems, like Kepler, it spotted patterns pointing to an exomoon. Hunter exoplanets recorded three transits past the stars, which showed the presence of an object orbiting a planet.

"Furthermore, the size we've calculated for this moon, about the size of Neptune, has hardly been anticipated, and so that, too, is reason to be careful here", Teachey said.

Scientists from Columbia University have discovered the first accespoint exoplanets beyond our Solar system.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: The researchers have requested more time on Hubble to do more observations next May.

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