Pandora and Endor, eat your hearts out. The first known moon outside of our solar system may have been found, and it seems weirder than we ever could have imagined.
Exomoons have long been predicted to exist – some may even be habitable worlds – but until now, no one had detected any. "This is the first serious candidate from any survey that I am aware of," says astronomer David Kipping of Harvard University, who was not involved in the discovery.
Unlike the exomoons that feature in the films Avatar and Return of the Jedi, not to mention the moons in our solar system, the new moon and its exoplanet seem to be adrift in the cosmos, far from any star.
The two new objects were detected using an unusual method. Most of the 1000 or so exoplanets discovered to date were found by analysing changes in the light of their star, but a select few have been seen using a technique called gravitational microlensing. When an object passes in front of a distant star as seen from Earth, the object's gravity bends the light from the background star, focusing it like a lens – and making the star temporarily appear brighter if observed from a particular angle.To read more, click here.