Signal May be From 1st 'Exomoon'
A team of astronomers has potentially discovered the first known moon beyond the Solar System, reported BBC.
If confirmed, the "exomoon" is likely to be about the size and mass of Neptune, and circles a planet the size of Jupiter but with 10 times the mass.
The signal was detected by Nasa's Kepler Space Telescope; astronomers now plan to carry out follow-up observations with Hubble in October.
A paper about the candidate moon is published on the Arxiv pre-print site.
To date, astronomers have discovered more than 3,000 exoplanets - worlds orbiting stars other than the Sun.
A hunt for exomoons - objects in orbit around those distant planets - has proceeded in parallel. But so far, these extrasolar satellites have lingered at the limits of detection with current techniques.
Dr David Kipping, assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University in New York, says he has spent "most of his adult life" looking for exomoons.
The Kepler telescope hunts for planets by looking for tiny dips in the brightness of a star when a planet crosses in front - known as a transit. To search for exomoons, researchers are looking for a dimming of starlight before and after the planet causes its dip in light.
The promising signal was observed during three transits - fewer than the astronomers would like to have in order to confidently announce a discovery.
The work by Dr Kipping, his Columbia colleague Alex Teachey and citizen scientist Allan R Schmitt, assigns a confidence level of four sigma to the signal from the distant planetary system. The confidence level describes how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance. If you express it in terms of tossing a coin, it's equivalent to...