According to Space.com, astronomers have discovered over 1,700 alien (outside our solar system) planets but have yet to find an exomoon. “We won’t have a chance to observe the exomoon candidate again,” said David Bennett of the University of Notre Dame, Ind., the lead author of a recently released paper on the findings that will be featured in the Astrophysical Journal. “But we can expect more unexpected finds like this.”
The new study was led by the joint Japan-New Zealand-American Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) and the Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork (PLANET) programs.
In the study, researchers used a technique called gravitational microlensing, where stars can be analyzed as one passes in front of a more distant star.
Exomoon: What was it?
“The ratio of the larger body to its smaller companion is 2,000 to 1,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology said in a statement. “That means the pair could be either a small, faint star circled by a planet about 18 times the mass of Earth — or a planet more massive than Jupiter coupled with a moon weighing less than Earth.”
Unfortunately, the findings will only bring additional speculation as there is no way of going back to confirm what may or not have been observed.
“One possibility is for the lensing system to be a planet and its moon, which if true, would be a spectacular discovery of a totally new type of system,” Wes Traub, chief scientist for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.
“The researchers’ models point to the moon solution, but if you simply look at what scenario is more likely in nature, the star solution wins,” added Traub, who was called on for his expertise but was not involved in the study personally.
In a constantly changing world one wonders if we will see a self-driving car on the road or a proven exomoon first, and the race (I’ve created) is on.