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NASA’s TESS telescope just discovered two new Earth-like planets

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NASA

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), NASA’s latest planet-hunter, just hit one other milestone: It has discovered its first exoplanet.

On Monday, NASA shared the space telescope’s “first light” data, revealing a whole lot of 1000’s of stars within the southern sky that it has set it sights on and confirming that, sure, issues have been working as they need to be. That means TESS can focus its 4 cameras on stars, in search of slight dips in brightness which suggests a planet might have been “transiting” across the star.

It appears that information was solely an appetizer although, as a preprint paper uploaded to the arXiv server on Sunday suggests TESS has already discovered its very first planet: a super-Earth orbiting the star Pi Mensae (π Men), practically 60 gentle years away. NASA’s TESS Twitter account introduced the invention on Wednesday, however mentioned discovery nonetheless must be reviewed earlier than it’s validated.

If the information is validated, the new super-Earth, which was dubbed “π Men c”, will go down as TESS’s first discovery on its two-year mission to seek out Earth-like exoplanets round close by stars. Its orbital interval is just 6.three days lengthy.

And the new super-Earth is not alone. Another planet generally known as “π Men b”, about 10 instances the scale of Jupiter and with an orbital interval of better than 2,100 days, additionally calls Pi Mensae house.

But wait, there’s extra. Literally: More new exoplanets!

A second prepint paper, uploaded to arXiv on Wednesday, means that TESS might have already situated an “ultra-short-period planet” across the M dwarf LHS 3844. That star is a bit nearer than Pi Mensae, at a contact beneath 49 gentle years away. Currently dubbed “LHS 3844 b”, the planet zips round its star with an orbit taking just 11 hours. It is probably going extremely irradiated and thus wouldn’t have an environment, however these assumptions will have to be examined with spectroscopy. Moreover, the analysis workforce cautions that it might truly be orbiting a low-luminosity secondary star.

The information will have to be validated earlier than the exoplanet is formally added to our ever-expanding listing of close by celestial our bodies. Both observations got here by way of the TESS Alerts system, which is presently in beta, and permits TESS scientists to follow-up on planet candidates earlier than the primary TESS information launch in January 2019.

What is most mind-boggling is that TESS has solely just begun its mission. The area telescope launched on the back of a SpaceX Falcon in April and formally started observations in July. What wonders nonetheless await? How many exoplanets will we discover?

TESS is just the beginning of study for a lot of of those exoplanets and the information it supplies permits scientists to dig a bit deeper, revealing extra in regards to the planets they discover utilizing spectroscopy. If the primary month is something to go by, an inflow of exoplanet information will begin to filter out from the spacecraft because it continues to map the southern sky, trying to find planets.


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