NASA Telescope Finds Two Undiscovered Planets 49 Light-Years AwaySeptember 23, 2018
NASA’s $337 million telescope has only been orbiting in space for five months and already spotted two previously undiscovered planets. The ‘super-Earth’ and ‘hot Earth’ planets were spotted in solar systems at least 49 light-years away.
It was confirmed this week that NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or ‘TESS’ – a planet-hunting orbital telescope – had made the incredible discovery.
The amazing find marks the first discovery on a two-year mission, following its launch in April from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
As part of astronomers’ bid to expand the known catalog of exoplanets – worlds circling distant stars – TESS is designed to detect worlds beyond our solar system.
The ‘super-Earth’ and ‘hot Earth’ are too hot to support life, but the TESS Deputy Science Director, Sara Seager, says she expects more similar discoveries.
She told Reuters: “We will have to wait and see what else TESS discovers.
“We do know that planets are out there, littering the night sky, just waiting to be found.”
NASA hopes to discover thousands more previously unknown planets – perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or ‘super-Earth’ sized, which are no larger than twice as big as our third rock from the sun.
Martin Spill, NASA’s program scientist for TESS, is reported to have said in a phone interview that Pi Mensae c could have a solid surface or be a water world, as the composition of such planets is an assortment.
Though the two newest planets still need to be reviewed by other researchers, officialshave said they offer the chance for follow-up study.
Spill said: “That, of course, is TESS’ entire purpose – to find those planets around those brightest nearby stars to do this really detailed characterisation.”
With four special cameras, TESS uses a detection method called transit photometry, which looks for periodic dips in the visible light of stars caused by planets passing, or transiting, in front of them.