NASA's TESS Planet Hunting Satellite Discovers Third New Exoplanet

NASA's TESS Planet Hunting Satellite Discovers Third New Exoplanet

NASA's TESS Planet Hunting Satellite Discovers Third New Exoplanet

NASA's latest planet hunting probe has discovered a new world outside our solar system, orbiting a dwarf star 53 light years away.

The planet, as well as two other planets, was found by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, a satellite that has only been observing space for three months.

HD 21749b completes one orbit of its host star, which is almost as bright as our sun, every 36 Earth days. All three planets were discovered in the first three months of TESS observations.

"It's a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon", University of Chicago graduate student Adina Feinstein, the lead author of a paper on the discovery, said in a NASA news release. "But here we were lucky, and can now study this one in more detail", said Diana Dragomir, a Hubble fellow at MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and the head of the discovery team. "We know a lot about atmospheres of hot planets, but because it's very hard to find small planets that orbit farther from their stars, and are therefore cooler, we haven't been able to learn much about these smaller, cooler planets".

A weird planet at least 23 times the mass of Earth, unveiled on 7 January, is among the confirmed planets-some of which have been reported before. Surprisingly, it is also a whopping 23 times as massive as the Earth.

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The new world, known as K2-288Bb, could be rocky or could be a gas-rich planet similar to Neptune.

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", Dragomir said.

"It could be a water planet or have some other type of substantial atmosphere."
The first two candidates - known as Pi Mensae c and LHS 3844b - were reported in September, and they've now taken their place as the first two confirmed planets on TESS' list.

This new and improved Earth is situated in the stellar called K2-288, made up of a pair of dim stars, about 5.1 billion miles apart, which is approximately six times the distance between Saturn and the Sun - if that means anything to you.

When a planet passes in front of a star as viewed from Earth, the event is called a "transit". K2-288Bb orbits this smaller and dimmer star every 31.3 days. This is relatively cool considering its proximity to its star.

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A different group of astronomers had studied the HD 21749 system a decade ago using HARPS, which finds planets by noticing the tiny wobbles that their gravitational tugs induce in their host stars. "But we re-extracted the data and zoomed in to look more carefully, and found what looked like the end of a transit".

He continued: "Re-orienting Kepler relative to the Sun caused minuscule changes in the shape of the telescope and the temperature of the electronics, which inevitably affected Kepler' sensitive measures in the first days of each campaign".

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.

Once TESS has completed its two-year monitoring of the entire sky, the science team has committed to delivering information on 50 small planets less than four times the size of Earth to the astronomy community for further follow-up, either with ground-based telescopes or the future James Webb Space Telescope.

The Trappist-1 star system, which hosts a record seven Earth-like planets, was one of the biggest discoveries of 2017.

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