Monday, June 13, 2011

Moon-spotting possibilities

I came across this article when I was browsing arXiv: astro-ph and it was pretty cool, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

Now, the actual paper is pretty technical so I wouldn't bother reading it unless you're really keen. In it the author, Kipping, simulates a planet-moon system transiting its primary and discusses the possibility of actually detecting the moon from such a transit.

The transit method, if you recall from last Wednesday's post, uses the fact that a planet passing in front of its sun dims the star's light a little bit. Kepler is a telescope orbiting in space which is currently searching for planets using this method.

In his paper, Kipping computes what we need to look for in the light curves (the data which shows how much light we can see from a star over time) to identify possible extra solar moons. What really caught my eye, though was that he concludes that Kepler is sensitive enough to detect some exo-moons. How cool is that? Maybe in the near future we'll be reading about the latest batch of exo-moons as well as the increasingly large database of exoplanets we're building up.

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