Astronomers may have discovered the first exomoon
A TEAM of astronomers believe they have spotted the first moon outside our solar system.
Phys.org reports that the team lead by Dr. David Kipping, assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University, has spotted what might be the first evidence of a moon orbiting an exoplanet. By harnessing data from the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers have identified an exomoon candidate, called Kepler-1625b.
"It would be a pretty big deal if this exomoon candidate turns out to be real, because it would be the first of its kind, and moons stand to tell us quite a bit about our solar system and other star systems," Alex Teachey, a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow at Columbia University, who participated in the research, told Fox News via email.
"This could provide vital clues about how star systems form and evolve," he added.
Kepler-1625b, which is orbiting the star Kepler-1625, is approximately 4,000 light years away, according to the report.
A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals about 9.461 billion kilometres.
The BBC reports that the exomoon may have the size and mass of Neptune, and is circling a planet about the size of Jupiter, but with 10 times the mass.
"It it turns out to be, as we've suspected, a massive Jupiter-like planet with a moon roughly the size of Neptune, it's very strange, and not like anything astronomers have expected to exist out there," Teachey said.
"And that might tell you there's really some strange stuff going on elsewhere, not at all like what we see in our neighbourhood."
The astronomer adds that scientists need to do a lot more research on the possible exomoon. "Of course, its strangeness is reason enough to pause and say, 'is this for real?' and believe me, we've asked ourselves that quite a bit," he said.
"And so we just want to be as clear as possible that, while we think this candidate is worthy of follow-up with Hubble, there's still a chance we end up seeing nothing when we observe it in October. We'll just have to wait and see."
A paper on the exomoon has been published on the Arvix.org site.