NASA’s Newest Planet Hunting Satellite TESS Spots First Confirmed Exoplanets

11 January, 2019, 16:30 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • TESS Discovers Its Third New Planet

The paper has now been accepted for publication by The Astronomical Journal.

Except for being discovered by volunteer astronomers, the great news about his planet is that its size is rare outside our solar system. The Exoplanet HD 21749B is classified as the sub-Neptune planet and is three times bigger than the earth.

An exoplanet 23 times denser than Earth has been spotted orbiting a distant star 54 light-years away.

It is 226 light-years away in the constellation Taurus, and could be rocky or could be a gas-rich planet similar to Neptune, NASA says.

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", said Diana Dragomir, a postdoctoral researcher in the MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research told CNN.

K2-288Bb lies within its star's habitable zone, meaning it is possible for it to hold liquid water.

Since the start of the program in July, the MIT-led Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite project has discovered Pi Mensae b, a "super-Earth" which travels around its star every six days, and LHS 3844b, a rocky world with an orbit of only 11 hours.

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The planet has an orbit of 36 days and a surface temperature of about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. "It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", Dragomir said. "But here we were lucky, and can now study this one in more detail".

The newfound planet K2-288Bb, illustrated here, is slightly smaller than Neptune.

An artist's conception shows NASA's Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite, or TESS, with an assortment of exoplanets. Its mission will last two years, and NASA say that over this period the unit will study 200 000 nearby stars. As far as what the planet may be like, the jury is still out. With the launch of the James Webb Telescope, planet-hunters and scientists will be able to glean more information about TESS' discoveries and look closer for planets just like ours.

All science data from the first two TESS observation sectors were recently released to the scientific community through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Because TESS stares non-stop at one slice of the sky for 27 days, then moves to a neighbouring slice, it captures an unprecedented view of these exploding stars as they brighten and then dim. "TESS found as many in its first month".

"There was quite some detective work involved, and the right people were there at the right time", Dragomir said. Three transits are needed to confirm an exoplanet candidate.

"Just to put that number of six supernovae in one month in context, the only other mission that could really do this was the Kepler spacecraft, and Kepler found five supernovae in four years of operation".

"More than a million TESS images were downloaded from MAST in the first few days", said Thomas Barclay, a TESS researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.



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