While it may be a fairly scary world we live in at the best of times, there certainly seems to be continued effort into discovering more about the wild and wonderful universe around us. We’ve recently reported on Japanese experts having successfully landed rovers on a passing asteroid – and there continues to be speculation over the so-called Planet X, which has been eluding space enthusiasts for decades. This week, however, it seems that a recent discovery about a certain exomoon has got universe explorers abuzz.
Exoplanets are bodies which orbit stars beyond our solar system – and it’s thought that the first known exomoon has been spotted orbiting a very distant planet around the size of Jupiter. Over 3,500 exoplanets have been discovered beyond our system in total – but up until recently, an absence of any satellites was notable. The search for exomoons has been going on for some time now, but experts are very hopeful that recent investigations suggest the maiden body may finally have been sourced.
David Kipping and Alex Teachey, astronomers writing in the Science Advances journal, are excited to propose the evidence surrounding an exomoon having used data from both the Hubble telescope and NASA’s Kepler. Both experts have made it clear that further research will be necessary for any confirmations to be made, but the evidence gathered thus far is very promising.
“We’ve tried our best to rule out other possibilities such as spacecraft anomalies, other planets in the system or stellar activity, but we’re unable to find any other single hypothesis which can explain all of the data we have,” Dr Kipping confirmed. The pair observed Kepler 1625b, an exoplanet, as it passed in front of its star – which took around 19 Earth hours to complete. During the process, Kipping and Teachey were able to find small dips in the star’s brightness and in delays to the orbit of the exoplanet in question. “The location, shape and depth of this event appear consistent with a Neptune-sized moon transiting in front of the star,” Dr Kipping advised.
“The moon model emerges as the best explanation for the data, and it has the added benefit of being a single explanation for both the timing effects and the dimming of the star that we see in the data,” Teachey confirmed. “Still, we are urging caution here. The first exomoon is obviously an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence.”