A sign of life, out there? Western University identifies six exomoons
LONDON, ONT. -- A physics and astronomy PhD student at Western University may have uncovered something no one else has yet.
Chris Fox, supported by his professor Paul Wiegert, has identified six potential new spots in the sky.
“We think we have found a signal which would indicate a number of exomoons."
Exomoons orbit exoplanets (defined as planets outside of our solar system), or at least that’s the theory.
The problem is, while we know exoplanets exist, science has never been able to definitively identify an exomoon.
But Fox’s discovery puts us closer.
Using data from the recently decommissioned Kepler space telescope, Fox was about to locate and name six potential exomoons candidates
They are between 200 and 3000 light years away from earth.
It’s a neat discovery for an PhD student, but it’s also an important revelation for the age old question, “Are we alone?”
“But by looking for exomoons, we can really expand the number of potential places that there could be life, or that we may want to go one day,” Fox tells CTV News.
He says the presence of moons increases the likelihood a habitable world might be found.
His findings, now submitted to a science journal, were determined by looking for variances in gravitational pull of a moon's parent planet. Fox says dips in light were a tell-tale sign.
“Some cases we see this light not being periodic. It’s not occurring where it's supposed to be. So that’s where we are hypothesizing that’s what’s the moon is doing. The moon is causing an offset. It’s like a reflex action on the planet.”
Yet, until better telescopes exist, the pattern changes are the only way to suggest exomoons are there.
Fox’s hope is to one day have new technologies in his hands to make the conclusion, definitively.