According to recent reports out of Cape Canaveral, Florida astronomers may very well have found the first moon ever outside our own solar system. They are stating that it is a gaseous moon, the size of Neptune.
We have known for a millennium that planets do in fact exist outside our solar system. However, a moon orbiting around one of those known planets had yet to be confirmed. The reported to have been discovered moon is much larger than our Earth—more likely along the size of either Neptune or Uranus. The planet, as well as the moon orbiting it, is said to be up to 8,000 light years from us.
The researchers responsible for the discovery, Alex Teachey and David Kipping worked to evaluate the already known 284 planets outside our solar system. The planets were discovered by the NASA Kepler Space Telescope. Of the 284 planets the team of two looked at, only one had the promise of hosting its own moon. The star in question was named Kepler-1625, and measures approximately the size of our sun, but much older.
In an attempt to put their theory to the test, last October the researchers pointed the Hubble Telescope towards the star. They waited, looking for changes in the stars light density, that would indicate that it was passing either in front of or behind its own moon. Finally, they saw what they were looking for, what they termed “like a dog following its owner on a leash.”
Unfortunately, the observation period ended before the researchers could say without a doubt that the moon exists. They will have to wait until next spring, and take yet another look with the Hubble Telescope just to make sure.
“We are urging caution here. The first exomoon is obviously an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence.”
It stands to reason to be careful, as such a discovery could completely change the way scientists have viewed the cosmos. Now we just have to wait and see what the Hubble can determine in the spring.