Astronomers May Have Possibly Announced The Discovery Of The Very First Exomoon!
A team of astronomers, led by David Kipping may have recently discovered the very first unknown exomoon beyond our Solar System.
After their years of search in this high-profile expedition to discover moons which orbit distant planets, the team at Columbia University in the New York City was hesitant in revealing about their discovery of an alien moon, till they could verify the same by using the Hubble Space Telescope.
So far, exoplanets – worlds beyond our neighborhood – had grabbed all attention. With this announcement, it now seems that exomoons stand just as good a chance for similar worlds, though they are extremely difficult to discover.
According to Dr David Kipping, “It wasn’t something we were planning on announcing, because, at this point, it is only a candidate. He even added that he wanted to be more careful with this news. He says, “It only takes the slightest misstep in our language to miscommunicate the reality of what we have.”
For the moment, he urged carefulness, by saying that “We would merely describe it at this point as something which is consistent with a moon, but, who knows, it could be something else too.”
Kipping was forced to announce his discovery this week since it had come to another astronomer’s notice that Kipping’s team had appealed time on using the Hubble Space Telescope. The astronomer had even leaked the news on Twitter about Kipping and his team requesting for Hubble Space Telescope. It was clearly understood that being one of the most renowned astronomers who has been on the hunt for exomoons since ages, there was only one possible reason why Kipping wanted to use it.
Dr David says that he doesn’t blame his colleague for sharing something in twitter that was already there on the public record. Since the tweet had begun speculations all around, the team decided to put an end to all kind of speculations by being transparent of their discovery. Kipping says, “We figured the only option we had was to get ahead of the story.”
Once news reports started appearing, Alex Teachey, another member of Kipping’s team wrote a guest blog for explaining his team’s decision. He wrote, “Let’s be clear: We were not trying to save ourselves from embarrassment. The announcement and subsequent retraction of potentially ground-breaking results has the effect of eroding public trust in science over time and we are chiefly concerned with not contributing to that problem.”
The candidate exomoon is known as Kepler 1625 b I and has been observed around a star which is at a distance of some 4,000 light years from the Earth. Due to its large size, some have even dubbed the candidate as “Neptune.”
The Hubble telescope is an important research tool in astronomy. It is used for detecting exoplanets with a glowing atmosphere. To hunt for exomoons, astronomers are seeking for a dim of starlight before and after the planet.
This team of astronomers at the Columbia University had observed this promising signal during three transits only. This is fewer than what researchers would prefer to have for announcing the discovery of something so significant.
Probing the light of star systems even millions of miles away is exceptionally difficult. Even several discoveries of exoplanets have turned out to be flukes in the past either due to a dip in the starlight or for some other reason.
According to Dr David Kipping and his team of astronomers, “At this time we remain cautious about the reality of this signal, given the relatively small number of transits available. This is particularly true because the third transit appears to be crucial to the exomoon interpretation and can be removed by using polynomial-based detrending approaches.
Jean Schneider at the Paris Observatory is of the opinion that the team of researchers at the Columbia University was right in making the discovery of the candidate known to all. He says, “Other people can re-analyze the Kepler data for Kepler 1625 b and make their own opinion.”
Astronomers have previously spotted exomoons, only to find after collecting adequate data that the orbs weren’t there really. Kipping says, “I have seen more moons evaporate.” Some confounding factors like instrumental glitches were found to imitate the mark of an exomoon.
Kipping says that after the team of researchers look at the star through Hubble again in the month of October, will they announce the final result of their observation to the public.