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06 October 2018, 11:27 | Dale Webster
The moon is the size of Neptune More
Astronomers are requesting more time on Hubble in May 2019 to try to confirm their results.
The discovery was made using both the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes and suggests that gas giant Kepler-1625B has a moon that's roughly the size of Neptune. Researchers caution that the moon hypothesis is tentative and must be confirmed by follow-up Hubble observations.
"This intriguing finding shows how NASA'smissions work together to uncover incredible mysteries in our cosmos". Today we know that the conditions on extrasolar planets are very diverse - they differ in temperature, size, composition, orbital architecture and character of the star-master. Such an event is called a transit, and has been used to detect numerous exoplanets cataloged to date.
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.
"This would be the first case of detecting a moon outside our solar system", Kipping said in a statement.
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 observed a dip in Kepler-1625's brightness when the planet and then the exomoon passed in front of it. It clearly indicated a moon that was trailing behind the planet. However, the researchers' alloted observation time ended before the planet could complete its transit. With a radius that's around a third that of its parent planet, this object is unlike any moon of a giant planet in the solar system.
The researchers note the planetary wobble could be caused by the gravitational pull of a hypothetical second planet in the system, rather than a moon. "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".
The potential moon would be considerably larger than Earth - about the size of Neptune or Uranus.
There are about 200 moons in our own solar system, including Earth's aptly named "moon".
Although the object itself can not be seen, there are hints it exists, according to the researchers: The planet moves around its star in a way that indicates something else is pulling on it gravitationally, probably a moon. This would be the first moon found outside the Solar System, as indicated by a new study distributed in the journal Science Advances. 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. This catalog included 284 planets found by Kepler with wide orbits around their host stars.
"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. None have been confirmed so far even though more than 3,500 exoplanets are known.
The ideal candidate planets hosting moons are in large orbits, with long and infrequent transit times. Other moons, such as Neptune's largest moon Triton, may have been captured from the Kuiper belt. There are just a handful of these in the Kepler database.
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