Astronomers may have discovered the first moon outside Earth's Solar System

Over the last couple of decades we’ve spotted thousands of planets outside ofMore

According to the researchers, the data which was gathered from recent Hubble Space Telescope observations of the star Kepler-1625 shows that the exoplanet Kepler-1625b is several times larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System by a mile.

Thousands of planets have been spotted outside of our solar system over the past few decades, but for the first time, scientists may have discovered a moon.

In search of exomoons, Alex Teachey and David Kipping, astronomers at Columbia University in NY, analyzed data from 284 Kepler-discovered planets that were in comparatively wide orbits, longer than 30 days, around their host star. It is gaseous and orbits a gas planet 10 times the mass of Jupiter. Such gargantuan moons do not exist in our own solar system, where almost 200 natural satellites have been catalogued.

"This is a delightful reminder of how little we know about distant planetary systems and how great the spirit of discovery, which embodies exoplanetary science", said one of the study's authors Alex Tichy. They will use the Hubble Space Telescope for more observations in May 2019 to confirm their finding.

Teachey and Kipping believe the moon is approximately the size of Neptune, making it larger than any moon in our solar system.

The exomoon and its planet orbit Kepler-1625, a star similar in temperature to our sun but about 70 percent larger.

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.

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Second, once the planet finished passing by the face of the star, they observed another decrease in brightness about 3.5 hours later, consistent with "a moon trailing the planet like a dog following its owner on a leash", says Kipping in a press release.

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

Hubble was also able to measure that the planet began its transit earlier than expected, consistent with the "wobble" that occurs when a planet and moon orbit the same center of gravity. But there's no evidence of more planets in the system. And finding future moons will require looking at planets much further out from their stars, something that is hard now, but should possible once the powerful but long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope finally begins scanning the skies.

To gather more precise data on the unusual system the researchers monitored in October 2017, during Kepler 1625b's next transit for 40 hours. They observed the system throughout a predicted transit of the planet Kepler-1625b over the course of 40 hours.

Describing the moment of discovery, scientist David Kipping said: "It was definitely a shocking moment to see that light curve".

"If confirmed, this finding could completely shake up our understanding of how moons are formed and what they can be made of", NASA's science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement. However, both bodies are considered to be gaseous and, therefore, unsuitable for life as we know it. The ideal candidate planets hosting moons are in wide orbits, with long and infrequent transit times. He stated "The biggest things will be the easiest to find", as he claims that it would be possible to spot the planet footprints in the starlight due to the large size.

"But going forward, I think we're opening the doors to finding worlds like that", Teachey said.

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