Possible first sighting of an exomoon

first_img(Phys.org)—A team led by David Kipping of Columbia University has spotted what might be the first evidence of an exomoon. They have written a paper describing their findings and have uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server. An exomoon is a moon orbiting an exoplanet. Many moons have been found in our solar system and many planets outside of it, but to date, no one has captured evidence of a moon orbiting one of those exoplanets. This might change, as the team studying data from the Kepler Space Telescope believe they have found strong evidence for a moon orbiting a planet which is itself orbiting a star called Kepler-1625.Exoplanets are found by noting the dimming of stars that occurs as a planet passes between Earth and the star. A moon would be found in roughly the same way, the researchers note, by looking for dimming that occurs in the light reflected from a planet caused by the transit of a moon. Kipping and his team report that they recorded three such dippings as the planet made three trips around its star. They have given their find a statistical confidence of slightly above 4 sigma, noting that the dipping they observed could be chalked up to a fluke in the data—there also exists the possibility that the dimming has another cause. They note that the star system is approximately 4000 light years away, which means the light from the planet is extremely dim to begin with.The team expects their finding to be verified (or quashed) by data from the Hubble Space Telescope, which offers much better data, sometime in the near future. But while they wait, they are already developing theories about the exomoon—if it truly exists, it would have to be much larger than our moon in order to detect it, perhaps as large as Neptune. That would mean the planet it is orbiting wis also quite large, likely as large as Jupiter. If that is the case, its size suggests that it would likely have formed later than moons in our solar system. It would also make the first observed exomoon the largest moon ever observed. Citation: Possible first sighting of an exomoon (2017, July 28) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-07-sighting-exomoon.html © 2017 Phys.org Journal information: arXiv This artist’s concept depicts a planetary system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltechlast_img read more