Revisiting the exomoon candidate signal around Kepler-1625 b

Kai Rodenbeck, René Heller, Michael Hippke, Laurent Gizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context. Transit photometry of the Jupiter-sized exoplanet candidate Kepler-1625 b has recently been interpreted as showing hints of a moon. This exomoon, the first of its kind, would be as large as Neptune and unlike any moon we know from the solar system. Aims. We aim to clarify whether the exomoon-like signal is indeed caused by a large object in orbit around Kepler-1625 b, or whether it is caused by stellar or instrumental noise or by the data detrending procedure. Methods. To prepare the transit data for model fitting, we explore several detrending procedures using second-, third-, and fourth-order polynomials and an implementation of the Cosine Filtering with Autocorrelation Minimization (CoFiAM). We then supply a light curve simulator with the co-planar orbital dynamics of the system and fit the resulting planet-moon transit light curves to the Kepler data. We employ the Bayesian information criterion (BIC) to assess whether a single planet or a planet-moon system is a more likely interpretation of the light curve variations. We carry out a blind hare-and-hounds exercise using many noise realizations by injecting simulated transits into different out-of-transit parts of the original Kepler-1625 light curve: (1) 100 sequences with three synthetic transits of a Kepler-1625 b-like Jupiter-size planet and (2) 100 sequences with three synthetic transits of a Kepler-1625 b-like planet with a Neptune-sized moon. Results. The statistical significance and characteristics of the exomoon-like signal strongly depend on the detrending method (polynomials versus cosines), the data chosen for detrending, and the treatment of gaps in the light curve. Our injection-retrieval experiment shows evidence of moons in about 10% of those light curves that do not contain an injected moon. Strikingly, many of these false-positive moons resemble the exomoon candidate, that is, a Neptune-sized moon at about 20 Jupiter radii from the planet. We recover between about one third and one half of the injected moons, depending on the detrending method, with radii and orbital distances broadly corresponding to the injected values. Conclusions. A ΔBIC of - 4.9 for the CoFiAM-based detrending is indicative of an exomoon in the three transits of Kepler-1625 b. This solution, however, is only one out of many and we find very different solutions depending on the details of the detrending method. We find it concerning that the detrending is so clearly key to the exomoon interpretation of the available data of Kepler-1625 b. Further high-accuracy transit observations may overcome the effects of red noise but the required amount of additional data might be large.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA49
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Methods: data analysis
  • Planets and satellites: detection
  • Techniques: photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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