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Hubble finds compelling evidence for a moon outside the solar system

06 October 2018

"It's big and weird by solar system standards", David Kipping, an astronomy professor at Columbia University, gave his opinion on the moon, " It is known as an exomoon because it is outside our solar system".

This moon candidate, which is 8,000 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation, orbits a gas-giant planet that, in turn, orbits a star called Kepler-1625.

We are still discovering dwarf planets within our own solar system, and astronomers have spent the past 30 years trying to locate an exomoon, but to no avail.

Teachey, a third-year graduate student at Columbia University in NY, was first author of the research announcing the potential moon. Not because it showed that moons exist outside the solar system, but also because they felt it was only a matter of time for professionals to find another solar system.

The candidate exomoon - signs of which were spotted by NASA's Kepler and Hubble space telescopes - may have similarly edged away from its planet over time, so it could have been much closer billions of years in the past, Kipping said. 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. Through the Hubble, the team studied Kepler-1625b as it passes between the star that it is orbiting, which is Kepler-1625, and the Earth. The mass ratio between the exomoon and Kepler-1625b is similar to the ratio between the moon and Earth. About 3.5 hours later, the telescope detected a decrease in the star's brightness, which indicated that the exomoon likely passed by.

Astronomers used data and observations from the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes to study the distant star, planet and possible moon. Until now, astronomers have never found solid evidence for a moon. This is further complicated by the fact that the moon signal will also be in a different location with respect to the host planet at each epoch, so the moon transits will not be strictly repeatable, and multiple moons around a single planet may wash out any observable signal anyway.

Scientists are convinced that have received the exact proof of the existence of the moon orbiting the exoplanet Kepler-1625b.

It helps, if the moon your searching for is rather big too; say on the scale of a medium to large planet. "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".

Last October, they observed the exoplanet's fourth transit around its star with Hubble, and it confirmed their findings. While Kepler has not detected a second planet in the system, it could be that the planet is there, but not detectable using Kepler's techniques.

But Dr Kipping said: "Both bodies, however, are considered to be gaseous and therefore unsuitable for life as we know it". That could have produced a rocky moon with a bloated atmosphere that looks like a Neptune-size object.

"We hope to re-observe the star again in the future to verify or reject the exomoon hypothesis", Kipping tells Wall as Space.com. And the third is moons forming from the disc materials that created the planets in the early days of the solar system.

"But moving forward, I think we open the door to search for such worlds", said Teachey.

Scientists from Columbia University have discovered the first accespoint exoplanets beyond our Solar system. As detailed in the researchers' publication, the Hubble telescope picked up a smaller dimming about 3.5 hours after the first one, suggesting a second body following the first one.

Hubble finds compelling evidence for a moon outside the solar system