Astronomers find first moon beyond our solar system

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The irregular times of the transit can be explained by a moon wobbling around a planet, but there is also a chance it could also be a hidden planet. "That demands a higher level of rigor and skepticism than you would normally apply to a run-of-the-mill detection".

Kipping has spent a decade working on the "exomoon hunt". A giant moon like Neptune points to other mechanisms. Earth's companion keeps our planet's tilt stable and affects the tides.

This NASA photo taken on July 20, 1969 shows astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. saluting the United States flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission. "Both bodies, however, are considered to be gaseous and therefore unsuitable for life as we know it", Kipping said.

Astronomers first found exoplanets - planets outside our own Solar System - 30 years ago.

They say they noticed a dip in the amount of light approximately 3 and half hours after a planet about the size of Jupiter transits past the star.

This still doesn't prove the existence of an exomoon around Kepler-1625b.

So the duo applied to study the planet with Hubble, and were awarded 40 hours of observation time with the iconic telescope.

While the researchers have yet to confirm the presence of an exomoon, they estimate that this moon would be about the size of Neptune.

As the planet moved in front of the star, the star's light dimmed too much.

The observations measured the momentary dimming of starlight as a planet passed in front of its star, called a transit. "The first exomoon is obviously an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence". "Furthermore, the size we've calculated for this moon, about the size of Neptune, has hardly been anticipated and so that, too, is reason to be careful here".

A current theory of planetary formation suggests that objects like this are unlikely to have formed in place with their Jupiter-mass planets, but would instead be objects captured by the gravity of the planet later on in the evolution of a planetary system.

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They estimate the surface temperature of both to be 176 degrees Fahrenheit. While not a candidate for life themselves, Jupiter-like planets in the habitable zone may harbor rocky moons, called exomoons, that could sustain life. In the meantime, they're encouraging other scientists to join in.

In flickering light of a distant sun, scientists may have discovered the first moon outside our solar system.

Now, the big question: Is there anyone else out there?

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. That's because they receive energy not only from their star, but also from radiation reflected from their planet. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.

It's an "extraordinary" find that "defies easy explanation" said co-author Alex Teachey - nothing like it exists in our own solar system. These moons seem to have oceans of water beneath an icy crust. The journal's deputy editor, Kip Hodges, praised the researchers for their cautious tone, given the hard and complicated process of identifying an exomoon. "Our analysis of the new light curve reveals two substantial anomalies", Kipping explained during a press briefing.

KIPPING: That's been a key driver for us for a while, just trying to understand the cosmic habitats out there that we might look for for life. They checked around 300 planets for any weirdness that might mean a moon. Kepler-1625b is a Jupiter-sized planet that orbits far enough away from its star-about the same distance Earth is from ours-that a moon could be stable.

In this image from television space shuttle Columbia's robotic arm released the Hubble telescope back into orbit Saturday, March 9, 2002.

Their findings appear in the journal Science Advances.

KIPPING: We're still not 100 percent sure about that, but we think it's the leading hypothesis. The research team hopes to take another look at the star next May, if there is time available on the Hubble.

MEGAN BEDELL: If this does pan out and turn into a true discovery, it would be really revolutionary. In the case of the Earth-Moon system, an early collision with a larger body is hypothesised to have blasted off material that later coalesced into a moon.

There are two ways to potentially identify an exomoon.

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