An artist's rendering of a super Earth. Shutterstock.

Six Potential Exomoons Discovered in Distant Solar Systems Raise Hopes of Finding Alien Life

The data obtained by astronomers is completely consistent with exomoons. To date, we have not managed to confirm the existence of a single moon orbiting a distant exoplanet. 


A group of astronomers from Western University has reported discovering six potential exomoons in distant star systems in the galaxy. The exomoons are located in star systems known as Kepler Object of Interest (KOOI); Kepler 517b (KOI-303.01), Kepler 1000b (KOI-1888.01), Kepler 409b (KOI-1925.01), Kepler 1326b (KOI-2728.01) and Kepler 1442b (KOI-3220.01). Exoplanets orbit stars other than our Sun; The moons of these planets are called exomoons. While more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered since the mid-1990s, none have a confirmed moon orbiting them, although several major candidates have been identified in recent years.

Hundreds of moons

Our own solar system contains hundreds of moons. If alien moons are prolific around other stars, they also greatly increase the potential places where life could sustain itself and where humanity might one day venture out into. The exomoon candidates and their characteristics have been presented by astronomers from the Institute for Earth and Space Exploration in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. “We know thousands of exoplanets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, but we only know a handful of ex-moon candidates,” revealed professor of physics and astronomer Paul Wiegert, co-author of the study.


Kepler Space Telescope

At a distance of 200 to 3,000 light-years away, the exoplanets reported in the new study were discovered using data from the Kepler Space Telescope, a planet-hunting spacecraft decommissioned by NASA in 2018. The exoplanets were revealed by transit method or Transit Photometry, a method that measures the light curve of stars for periodic dips in brightness when cosmic objects such as planets pass between us and the star. Their moons, however, were not so easily seen. “These exomoon candidates are so small that they cannot be seen from their own transits. Rather, their presence is revealed by their gravitational influence on their parent planet,” explained Wiegert.

Transit time

If an exoplanet orbits its star undisturbed, the transits it produces occur precisely at fixed intervals. But for some exoplanets, the transit time is variable, sometimes occurring several minutes before or after. Such variations in-transit time, known as TTV, indicate the existence of another body. That could mean a moon or another planet in the system that affects the planet in transit. Since exoplanets are more massive than exomoons. Most of the TTVs observed to date have been related to the influence of other exoplanets. But now, astronomers have discovered six Kepler exoplanet systems whose TTVs are equally well explained by exomoons as for exoplanets.


“That is why we are calling them ex-moon ‘candidates’ right now, as they still need follow-up confirmation,” Chris Fox, a Physics and Astronomy Ph.D. candidate who made the discoveries explained in a statement. Confirming their existence is a tough one for astronomers since telescopes needed to confirm the existence of the exomoons have still not been produced, which means that astronomers will need to rely on other types of data to revise their discoveries. Nonetheless, astronomers can say that the six new systems are entirely consistent with exomoons. “Their masses and orbits are such that they would be stable; they would be small enough that their own transits wouldn’t be seen, and they reproduce the pattern of TTVs seen throughout the Kepler data set,” Fox revealed.


Join the discussion and participate in awesome giveaways in our mobile Telegram group. Join Curiosmos on Telegram Today.

Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

Write for us

We’re always looking for new guest authors and we welcome individual bloggers to contribute high-quality guest posts.

Get In Touch