NASA’s Planet Hunting Satellite Discovers A New World


An artist's conception shows NASA's Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite, or TESS, with an assortment of exoplanets. That's actually quite cool, considering how close the planet is to its star. Details of the newfound exoplanet were unveiled on January 7 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

So the reprocessed, "cleaned-up" light curves were uploaded through the Exoplanet Explorers project on online platform Zooniverse, and the public was invited to "go forth and find us planets", Feinstein said.

It is three times bigger than Earth, which classes it as a Sub-Neptune exoplanet, but it is surprisingly 23 times Earth's mass.

Estimated to be about 1.9 times Earth's size, K2-288Bb is half the size of Neptune. It's hard to tell whether the planet is rocky like Earth or a gas giant like Neptune.

"This planet has a greater density than Neptune, but it isn't rocky", Dr Dragomir said.

"It could be a water planet or have some other type of substantial atmosphere."

The first confirmed discovery is a world called Pi Mensae c about twice Earth's size.

What's even more exciting are hints the HD 21749 system holds a second candidate planet about the size of Earth that orbits the star every 8 days. He helped discover thousands of planets that scientists have dubbed "Earth 2.0".

Its size is unusual for an exoplanet (the term for a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system). Those planets tear around their stars much more quickly than HD 21749b, completing orbits at 6.3 days and a meagre 11 hours. It's so close to its sun that some of its rocky surface could be molten lava during daytime. It was unclear whether this signal was caused by a planet or variations in the host star's activity, so Dragomir and her colleagues analyzed observations taken by another instrument, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a spectrograph installed on a telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile.

NASA's newest planet-hunting probe has bagged another alien world, the eighth confirmed find for the young mission.

According to the principal investigator of TESS, George Ricker of MIT, there is a steady and high volume of information flowing in presently, and since the launch of TESS in April past year, it has shown more promise than the Kepler Space Telescope. In Kepler's K2 mode, which ran from 2014 to 2018, the spacecraft repositioned itself to point at a new patch of sky at the start of each three-month observing campaign. But that won't be the only thing TESS will see as it stares into the same parts of the sky for months at a time. This will enable scientists to survey almost the entire sky.

Tess will aim for a unique elongated orbit that passes within 45,000 miles of Earth on one end and as far away as the orbit of the moon on the other end. Bright stars allow for easier followup study through ground- and space-based telescopes.

The Kepler Space Telescope is sleeping and not expected to wake up since it's out of fuel. About 50 of them may be the same size and temperature as Earth.

If the planet is not hit by radiation, it could mean that it might support life. That telescope, launching in 2021, would be able to characterize the details and atmospheres of exoplanets in ways scientists have not been able to do.

This has already led to the discovery of two other planets, Pi Mensae c and LHS 3844b, back in September.