Astronomers detect what could be the second exomoon in history, 2.6 times larger than Earth


14 Jan 2022 00:16 GMT

The discovery has not yet been confirmed and verification may take years.

A probable satellite was spotted by astronomers near the gas giant Kepler 1708b, about 5,500 light-years from our planet, Columbia University reported Thursday.

The moon, located far from its star and probably made of gas, has a diameter estimated to be 2.6 times that of Earth. These characteristics make it very similar to the first candidate object to be considered an exomoon, which was announced in July and is located 370 light years from Earth.

The similarity is not casual, explains one of the study’s authors, David Kipping. In their search for satellites outside the solar system, astronomers paid most attention to exoplanets whose orbits resemble those of Jupiter and Saturn, which have more than 100 moons combined. In addition, the capacity of the telescopes still does not allow to detect smaller celestial bodies.

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“The first detections in any survey will usually be the weirdos. [satélites] Large ones are simply easier to spot with our limited sensitivity,” says Kipping. At the same time, he points out that the sighting is a breakthrough for science: “Astronomers have so far found more than 10,000 exoplanet candidates, but exomoons are much more challenging. They are unknown land.”

The discovery of Kepler’s exomoon 1708b has not yet been confirmed and verification may take years. The description of the sighting can be found in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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