Astronomers have possibly discovered the first known moon outside our Solar System, using NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes.
The moon candidate is estimated to be only 1.5 percent the mass of its companion planet, and the planet is estimated to be several times the mass of Jupiter. Such gargantuan moons do not exist in our own solar system, where almost 200 natural satellites have been catalogued.
Alex Teachey, the graduate student who led the discovery, added: "It is an exciting reminder of how little we really know about distant planetary systems and the great spirit of discovery exoplanetary science embodies". The researchers say this may yield new insights into the development of planetary systems and may cause experts to revisit theories of how moons form around planets.
The celestial object has a diameter of about 49,000 km, more than nine times the size of Jupiter's Ganymede, which is the largest moon in the solar system. They noticed that after Kepler-1625B crossed in front of its star there was another decrease in measurable brightness 3.5 hours late.
To spot exoplanets, astronomers look at their host stars, and wait for a planet to pass between the starlight and observers on Earth.
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. Today we know that the conditions on extrasolar planets are very diverse - they differ in temperature, size, composition, orbital architecture and character of the star-master. It will take more observation with the Hubble to confirm it.
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Exomoons are hard to find because they are very small, so the dip they cause in light is obviously weaker than a planet that is, by comparison, much larger.
The astronomers are uncertain how this potential moon might have formed, given its size.
In July 2017, researchers started observing Kepler-1625b, an exoplanet orbiting the star Kepler-1625 in the constellation Cygnus. This could explain why the moon is 3 million kilometers from its planet; they were probably closer in the past.
"This would be the first case of detecting a moon outside our Solar System", Dr.
Even though they lie within their system's habitable zone, both the exoplanet and the exomoon are gaseous and thus unsuitable for life.
Even if it might be unusual that a Neptune-sized moon could exist out there, at the same time, nothing in physics says that it can't.
They followed up with the Hubble Space Telescope.
The possible moon was documented by Kepler, the powerhouse planet-hunting space telescope, when it cast a shadow by crossing in front of a star. They made a decision to look at exoplanets with the widest orbits, or those that take about 30 days to circle their stars.