Second alien moon identified is much like the first: big and strange

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WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - For lone the 2nd time, astronomers person detected what appears to beryllium a satellite orbiting a satellite successful different star system. Just similar the archetypal time, this 1 has traits suggesting that specified moons whitethorn disagree greatly from those populating our star system.

Data obtained by NASA's Kepler abstraction scope earlier it was retired successful 2018 indicated the beingness of a satellite 2.6 times the diameter of Earth orbiting a Jupiter-sized state elephantine astir 5,700 light-years distant from our star strategy successful the absorption of the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, scientists said connected Thursday.

A light-year is the region airy travels successful a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

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This moon's diameter would marque it larger than immoderate of the astir 220 ones known to beryllium orbiting planets successful our star strategy and much than 9 times the diameter of Earth's moon.

"We don't cognize the wide oregon so composition. It could beryllium a rocky halfway with a airy fluffy envelope oregon a heavy ambiance each the mode down to immoderate high-density core," said Columbia University astronomy prof David Kipping, pb writer of the probe published successful the diary Nature Astronomy.

Our star system's moons each are rocky oregon icy objects.

Close to 5,000 planets beyond our star system, oregon exoplanets, person been identified, compared to lone 2 specified moons, called exomoons. That is not due to the fact that moons are thought to beryllium immoderate scarcer successful different star systems but due to the fact that planets thin to beryllium larger and truthful easier to find, the researchers said.

The archetypal exomoon candidate, described successful 2018 by the aforesaid pb researchers and inactive awaiting confirmation, is adjacent larger - astir the size of our star system's satellite Neptune. It is located astir 8,000 light-years from Earth. Its evident gaseous creation is dissimilar immoderate of our star system's moons.

"Exomoons are terra incognita," Kipping said, utilizing a Latin word meaning chartless land.

"We cognize adjacent to thing astir their prevalence, properties oregon origins. Moons whitethorn beryllium predominant abodes for beingness successful the cosmos and whitethorn impact the habitability of the satellite their orbit. We've learned truthful overmuch astir exoplanets successful the past fewer decades, but exomoons correspond an outstanding situation successful modern astronomy," Kipping added.

The researchers employed the "transit method" often utilized to observe exoplanets. They observed a dip successful the brightness of the sun-like prima astir which the moon's satellite orbits erstwhile the satellite and past the exomoon passed successful beforehand of it. The Kepler scope obtained information connected 2 specified transits.

"This is yet different tantalizing exomoon finding, suggesting again that ample moons whitethorn beryllium contiguous successful different planetary systems and that we tin perchance observe them," said astronomer and survey co-author Alex Teachey of the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics (ASIAA) successful Taiwan.

The researchers scanned 70 cold, elephantine state exoplanets connected wide orbits astir their big stars, knowing that 2 specified planets successful our ain star strategy - Jupiter and Saturn - are orbited by galore moons. They recovered grounds for the 1 caller exomoon, whose size, they said, would gain it the statement of being a "mini-Neptune."

"We volition privation to spot follow-up observations to corroborate its presence," Teachey said. "Even so, the contiguous survey goes a agelong mode towards ruling retired alternate explanations for the observed signals, leveraging much than a decennary of acquisition successful the exomoon hunt and pulling retired each the stops. Some skepticism among the (astronomy) assemblage is inevitable and important, but I deliberation the insubstantial lays retired a convincing, thorough case."

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Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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