PetriDish: Help us find the first exomoon

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PetriDish: Help us find the first exomoon

Post by bystander » Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:33 am

Help us find the first exomoon | David Kipping | hek
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
About the Project

Are we alone in this universe? This timeless question has motivated everything from scientific discussion to movies about extraterrestrial life. The discovery of the first extra solar planet in 1991 shocked the astrophysics community. Since then, researchers have found over 500 new planets, birthing a whole new arena of planetary research.

We want to take this field one step further and study the existence of exomoons, or moons outside of the solar system. Not only will the study of exomoons enhance our understanding of planets and solar systems, but because moons are potentially habitable, our project would advance the search for extraterrestrial life.

Why This Matters

Our knowledge of the universe is still very limited. Everything the scientific community currently knows about how planets, stars and solar systems form is a result of studying planets outside of the solar system. This would be the first study ever done on exomoons, and by adding this new information, we could more closely and thoroughly study the universe and potentially open up a new subfield of planetary research. Ultimately, it would allow us to construct far more accurate models for exactly how solar systems form and answer the equally age-old question of how we all came into existence.

What Your Money Can Do

In order to study exomoons, we will need to use Kepler telescope data. The Kepler looks at stars and takes photos every hour, searching for changes in the brightness of each star. The dimming of a star correlates with the passing of a planet or moon in front of it. Further, because planets and moons orbit around each other, the gravitational tug of the moon causes the planets to wobble. We can detect that wobbling motion and use those clues to know that a moon is there.

To analyze all of the Kepler data, we need a small supercomputer working 24 hours a day to sift through the data. This supercomputer, like most technology, comes at a high cost, so we would be unable to make strides in this research arena without the private support of $10,000.

The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK): I. Description of a New Observational Project - David M. Kipping et al
  • > astro-ph > arXiv:1201.0752 > 03 Jan 2012 (v1), 15 Mar 2012 (v2)
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