NASA discovers new exoplanet 3 times the size of Earth

NASA discovers new exoplanet 3 times the size of Earth

NASA discovers new exoplanet 3 times the size of Earth

While NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is the newest space-based planet hunter, this new finding shows that more discoveries await scientists in Kepler data. It appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by TESS.

"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", Adina Feinstein, a University of Chicago graduate student who aided the discovery of K2-288Bb, said in a news release.

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", said Diana Dragomir, a postdoc in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, who led the discovery.

NASA said the other find, LHS 3884b, is around 1.3 times Earth's size, and every 11 hours orbits a cool M-type dwarf star around 49 light years away. They also believe that the exoplanet is likely mostly rocky with a dense atmosphere. "But here, we were lucky and caught this one and can now study it in more detail".

Tess monitors sections of the sky and waits for momentary dips in the light of about 200,000 nearby stars, likely to be a sign that a planet has passed in front of that star.

Researchers have also detected evidence of a second planet, with a shorter, 7.8-day orbitin the same planetary system, though it is yet to be confirmed. The MIT research, Chelsea Huang working on the TESS Datasets confirmed the news and claimed that there are 20 or 30 more planets discovered by the telescope but not yet confirmed.

The discovery of the planets was announced by scientists at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, the Guardian reported.

TESS sectioned the night sky into 26 segments - each to be surveyed meticulously over two years. The discovery will be reported in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Its size is unusual for an exoplanet (the term for a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system).

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", Dragomir said. It's clear that the world is significantly larger than Earth, about twice the size, but it's located within what scientists consider the habitable zone of its system.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets in the data from the space telescope's four cameras. HD 21749 completes one revolution around its host star in 36 days.

But the "reboot" of the Kepler mission in 2014 that led to the K2 mission allowed for multiple observation campaigns that brought in even more data. His team is now writing a proposal to NASA asking that TESS's mission be extended past its initial two years. Because TESS is programmed to look at a portion of the sky for only 27 days, any planets with a longer orbit are hard to identify.

"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 half of those were bagged by the Kepler Space Telescope - the predecessor to TESS. It has found nearly eight planets as well as other astronomical bodies.

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