Astronomers have detected strange signals from an object circling a Jupiter-sized planet 4,000 light years from Earth which could be the FIRST ever Moon, discovered outside of our solar system.
In what many are hailing as a historical moment for space explorations, astronomers believe they have finally discovered the very first moon beyond our solar system—an exomoon.
Located at a staggering 4,000 light year away, the “moon” or “Exomoon” orbits a star called Kepler-1625. The discovery was made thanks to NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope by three astronomers, Alex Teachey and David Kipping from Columbia University, and a scientist called Allan Schmitt.
The results of their observations were submitted on arXiv and their paper has also been submitted to journals for review.
Now, scientists are revising the data obtained by the astronomers.
If the discovery tours out to be the real deal, then Teachey, Kipping, and Schmitt may have made a sensational, unprecedented find.
“After our largest survey to date, we have recently found a strong candidate moon signal in the light curve of Kepler-1625b,” the team wrote in a request for Hubble observing time on October 29th.
The exomoon is about the mass of Neptune report astronomers and orbits a planet around 10 times the mass of Jupiter.
The observed signal was a double dip in the stars light as the planet—and its moon—passed in front of the star, relative to us.
As pointed out by New Scientist, astronomers are confident they’ve discovered the moon to a level of around 4.1 sigmas, meaning that if the moon turns out to not be real, they got a chance of about 1 in 16,000 to observe the signal again.
And while things are very exciting at the moment, we cannot be certain whether or not this is the first exomoon ever discovered.
As noted by astronomers, the signals we are seeing right now are a telltale sign you’d expect to get from the moon. However, it could be something entirely different.
In order to get to the bottom of the mystery, Astronomers will use the Hubble Space telescope in October 2017 to confirm their finding.
Speaking in an interview with BBC News, Kipping said: “Until we obtain measurements from Hubble, it may as well be 50-50 in my mind.”
“Exomoons are extremely difficult to detect because they are typically much smaller than their host planets and thus typically don’t affect the transit eclipse light changes, except if the moon is large as in the case of this system,” Edward Guinan, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova University, told Gizmodo.
“Because there are many moons in our solar system, they are likely very common in other planetary systems as well. Additional observation proposed with Hubble may be able to confirm this exomoon,” Guinan said. “The discovery of exomoons is extremely important because some of these moons could provide additional habitats (niches) for life.”
These are exciting times for Astronomy and space exploration, and similar to when astronomers detected the first ever planet outside of our solar system in 1992. While experts knew for certain that such planets existed, it was relay difficult to prove it.
As of 1 July 2017, there have been 3,621 exoplanets spotted by astronomers, in 2,712 planetary systems and 611 multiple planetary systems.