Scientists first discovered the moon outside the Solar system

An illustration shows a moon orbiting around a planet as the pair cross the face of their host star

In Star Wars VI we first meet the Ewoks living on the Forest Moon of Endor. It is gaseous and orbits a gas planet 10 times the mass of Jupiter.

"This would be the first case of detecting a moon outside our solar system", said David Kipping, an assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University.

The exomoon candidate has been officially called Kepler-1625b-i, but its discoverers have nicknamed it the "Nept-moon", since it's predicted to be the size of Neptune.

The Hubble observations show compelling evidence for a large exomoon orbiting the planet. So such a dip in a star's brightness is a "light signature" of an exoplanet. This new moon - if that's what it is - is huge, about the size of Neptune. Planets in wide orbits take longer to transit their stars and are likely to have big moons, which should make them easier to find than small ones. When analyzing transit data on Kepler-1625b, they saw anomalies suggesting the possible presence of a moon.

In 2017, Kepler detected hints of an exomoon orbiting the planet Kepler 1625b. With his help, they found a second, much smaller hole in the brightness of the star through 3.5 hours after the transit of the planet.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, also provided supporting evidence for the moon by discovering the planet began its transit 75 minutes earlier than predicted. While Kepler has not detected a second planet in the system, it could be that the planet is there, but not detectable using Kepler's techniques. For example, the Trappist-1 system of seven transiting planets exhibits strong transit timing variations. "It was a shocking moment to see that light curve". This is the first exomoon artist drawing. However, the search for moons orbiting these exoplanets was not successful - until today. Alternatively, it could be caused by an exomoon. By observing how frequently this occurs, they can deduce the orbital period as well.

Is it really a moon?

Another planet could cause the same gravitational nudge, the researchers noted, although Kepler observations have come up empty in that regard. All the planets in our solar system except Mercury and Venus have moons.

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Named Kepler 1625b-i, the moon is unusual because it has a mass and radius similar to Solar System's Neptune.

The exomoon is exponentially larger than our solar system's biggest moon.

Just one star, Kepler 1625, looked promising. Current theories cannot therefore explain how a Neptune-sized moon could have formed in orbit around a Jupiter-sized planet.

"This is a delightful reminder of how little we know about distant planetary systems and how great the spirit of discovery, which embodies exoplanetary science", said one of the study's authors Alex Tichy. He has led the field over this time, so I am delighted that his persistence has paid off.

According to Reuters, the recently discovered aktolun and the planet around which it revolves, are gaseous and are located at a distance of 8000 light years from Earth.

Plenty of planets exist beyond our solar system, but a moon around one of those worlds has yet to be confirmed.

There is already a lot of anticipation about the prospect of finding life on exoplanets.

"We've tried our best to rule out other possibilities".

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