QR.bizNewsNewly-discovered exoplanet twice the size of Earth could have water

Newly-discovered exoplanet twice the size of Earth could have water

The new planet discovered by astronomers orbits this smaller star, completing one cycle every 313.3 days.

NASA's Kepler Mission K2 team announced the discovery of another new world today, two months after the Kepler spacecraft ran out of fuel on October 30th, and ended its mission after nine years, during which it discovered 2,600 confirmed planets around other stars - the bulk of those now known - along with thousands of additional candidates astronomers are working to confirm. If this world is confirmed, it will be the first roughly Earth-size planet found by TESS.

The planet has an orbit of 36 days and a surface temperature of about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

This year, Kevin Hardegree-Ullman, postdoctoral scholar in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, announced that the Spitzer space telescope followed up on that discovery and discovered a sixth planet, K2-138 g, smaller than Neptune, that orbits the star every 42 days. The brighter star is about half as massive and large as the Sun, while its companion is about one-third the Sun's mass and size.

According to NASA, the planet, named HD 21749b, is about three times Earth's size and 23 times its mass. TESS began its two-year mission in April 2018, and scientists say it will examine 200,000 nearby stars as it looks for rocky, Earth-size planets.

But it is unlikely that the planet is rocky and therefore habitable; it's more likely made of gas, of a kind that is much more dense than the atmospheres of either Neptune or Uranus.

The discoveries of a new planet and several supernovae are exciting enough and what's to come should give us even more information about the phenomena already discovered.

"It could be a water planet or have some other type of substantial atmosphere", said Dragomir who serves as lead author of a paper describing the discovery.

Currently, the team is investigating a second planet in the system with a shorter 7.8-day orbit. During the meeting, Chelsea Huang, an MIT researcher working on the TESS datasets, stated that TESS has confirmed the existence of eight new exoplanets, and that "there are probably 20 or 30" other potential discoveries "almost ready to be published". HD 21749b appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by Tess. Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time.

"Some of the most interesting science occurs in the early days of a supernova, which has been very hard to observe before TESS", said Michael Fausnaugh, a TESS researcher at the MIT Kavli Institute. Its size is different from other exoplanets that revolve around a star outside our solar system.

Like NASA's recently departed Kepler space telescope, TESS watches for the faint dip in light that occurs when an unseen planet passes in front of a star's disk. "TESS found as many in its first month".

These findings are from just the first few sectors TESS has observed in the Southern Hemispheres, beginning in July. Those planets could be the best candidates for supporting life outside our solar system.

TESS is considered to be a "bridge to the future", finding exoplanet candidates to study in more detail.

An illustration of NASA's Kepler space telescope.

TESS and exoplanets

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