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Scientists have found evidence of a second “exomoon” outside the solar system

Posted on 01/14/2022 20:50

Illustration of an “exomoon” orbiting a gas giant planet – (Credit: Helena Valenzuela Widerström)

A new discovery for American scientists may mean there is more to explore in space. That’s because astronomers at Columbia University in New York have identified a second supermoon orbiting a planet similar in size to Jupiter, in addition to our own. Solar System.

If confirmed, this means that the so-called exo-moons, or “extrasolar moons”, are as common in the universe as exoplanets, and regardless of their size, these moons are characteristic of planetary systems.

The giant moon was seen orbiting the planet Kepler 1708b, which is 5,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the planets Cygnus and Lyra.

According to the researchers, this new candidate is about a third smaller than the previously existing moon, which is the size of the planet Neptune. Moreover, it is likely that both filters are made of gases that have accumulated under the gravitational effect of their size.

If the hypothesis is correct, it is possible that the outer moons began their journey in the universe as planets, but they could have been pulled into the orbit of a larger planet such as Kepler 1625b or 1708b.

Both moons are located far from the host stars – there is less gravity to pull the planets and uproot their moons. During searches for outer moons, astronomers have identified gaseous, cold, and giant planets in wide orbits, similar to what happens in our solar system where between Jupiter and Saturn there are more than a hundred moons between them.

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“If there were other moons out there, they would probably be less monstrous, but also more difficult to detect. In [luas] Large ones are easier to detect with our limited sensitivity, the researcher explains.

Exomoons have the power to reveal how and where life originated in the universe. There is also curiosity about how these giant moons formed, whether they can support life, and what role they play in making their host planets habitable.

Seeing a moon or even a planet hundreds of thousands of light years away from Earth is not easy. Moons and planets can only be observed indirectly as they pass in front of their host stars, causing starlight to dim intermittently.

Capturing one of these transiting traffic lights with a telescope is even more complicated, as is interpreting the light curve data. Moons are more difficult to detect because they are smaller and block less light.

Is it really exomoon?

It may take some time to confirm that this discovery is indeed a giant moon. That’s because the first sighting of the outer moon occurred four years ago and has yet to be confirmed.

The second supermoon was found by David Kipping in Lab “cold worldFrom Columbia University, where the first exomoon candidate was also found in 2018. The new discovery was published in Online scientific journal natural astronomy. “Astronomers have discovered more than 10,000 candidate exoplanets so far, but exomoons present a much bigger challenge,” said Kipping, who has spent the past decade searching for exomoons. “They are uncharted territory.”

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In the current study, researchers analyzed a sample of the cooler gas giant planets captured by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft. After scanning 70 planets in depth, they found only one candidate – Kepler 1708b – with a moon-like signal. “It’s a stubborn sign,” Kipping said.

For Eric Agul, a professor of astronomy at the University of Washington, this new evidence is unlikely to be real. “It could just be data fluctuation, due to the asterisk or the noise of the machines,” he explained.

Other researchers are more optimistic. “This is science at its best. We found something intriguing, made a prediction and confirmed or excluded an exomoon candidate with future observations,” said Michael Hebeck, an independent astronomer in Germany.

“These planets are strange compared to our original system, but they have revolutionized our understanding of how planetary systems form,” Kipping added.