First evidence of Moon outside our solar system: Astronomers

08 Octobre, 2018, 02:07 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Astronomers find evidence for existence of first known exomoon outside our solar system

This is the term used for planets that pass between Earth and their home star, resulting in a dimming of the star's light from our point of view.

A team of astronomers led by David Kipping, from Columbia University, announced in 2017 that they may have discovered the very first extrasolar moon, or exomoon.

The potential exomoon orbits an exoplanet dubbed Kepler-1625b, which was spotted using NASA's Kepler space observatory in a recent study that identified 284 "transiting planets". For exoplanet researchers observed with the help of the Hubble telescope. 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. When a star's brightness plunges, it means that a planet is passing it.

"Unfortunately, the scheduled Hubble observations ended before the complete transit of the moon could be measured."
As the researchers note, "the same ratio have the earth and the Moon".

The researchers noted that in principle this anomaly could be caused by the gravitational pull of a hypothetical second planet in the system, although Kepler found no evidence for additional planets around the star during its four-year mission.

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With the data from Kepler and Hubble, Kipping and Teachey found compelling evidence of an exomoon.

This is consistent with the planet and moon orbiting a common centre of gravity (barycentre) that would cause the planet to wobble from its predicted location.

"A companion moon is the simplest and most natural explanation for the second dip in the light curve and the orbit-timing deviation". Presumably its mass is half the mass of Jupiter conditional. An exomoon, also known as an extrasolar moon, is a natural satellite that orbits a planet - just like Earth's own Moon. The current theory is that Kepler-1625b's satellite is a gaseous moon, rather than being rocky like our own Moon.

During a survey of 300 Kepler exoplanets a year ago, Teachey and Kipping noticed a gas giant, Kepler-1625d, showing some peculiar characteristics. The detection of the candidate exomoon - moons orbiting planets in other star systems - is unusual because of its large size, comparable to the diameter of Neptune.

In this search, the Neptune-sized moon would have been among the easiest to first detect because of its large size, they said. "The first exomoon is obviously an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence".


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