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NASA Astronomers Discover Planet Twice The Size Of Earth
09 January 2019, 10:27 | Edward Lowe
"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", said Diana Dragomir, a postdoctoral researcher in the Massachusetts Institute for Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "The planet likely has a density of water, or a thick atmosphere", Dragomir said.
NASA'sTESS mission, which will survey the entire sky over the next two years, has already discovered three new exoplanets around nearby stars.
Since Kepler is no longer hunting for planets, NASA is now hoping that a new space telescope will aid in the search: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). These three planets were all discovered in the first three months of TESS observations.
Huang reported the findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.
She and her colleagues compared the pattern to the first full transit they had originally discovered, and found a near flawless match - an indication that the planet passed again in front of its star, in a 36-day orbit.
TESS looks for new planets by examining the light from about 200,000 stars and detecting any noticeable changes in brightness. That is fast by Earth standards, but the other two planets include Pi Mensae b with a 6.3-day orbit and LHS 3844b that orbits its star at a blistering pace of once every 11 hours. "TESS found as many in its first month". It was unclear whether this signal was caused by a planet or variations in the host star's activity, so Dragomir and her colleagues analyzed observations taken by another instrument, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a spectrograph installed on a telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile. "So it's going really well, and TESS is already helping us to learn about the diversity of these small planets".
"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.
According to reports, the planet named K2-288Bb was discovered using NASA's now defunct Kepler telescope.
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.
In addition to observing exoplanets, TESS has spotted many other types of astronomical phenomena, including comets and asteroids, flare stars and mutually eclipsing binary stars, white dwarf stars and supernovae.
If you think scientists aren't the most imaginative bunch when it comes to naming things, then think again because boffins over in the States think they may have discovered a 'super Earth'.
The habitable super-Earth appears to be a large, rocky planet with a surface temperature of about 72°F (22°C), similar to a spring day on Earth. Like Earth, they are small, rocky and usually within the habitable zone of their star, meaning liquid water can exist on the surface. There were too many light curves to study on their own.
In 2017, Feinstein and Makennah Bristow, an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina Asheville, worked as interns with Joshua Schlieder, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. That telescope, launching in 2021, would be able to characterize the details and atmospheres of exoplanets in ways scientists have not been able to do.
In total, Kepler has found around 5,000 unconfirmed "candidate" exoplanets, with a further 2,500 "confirmed" exoplanets that scientists have since shown to be real.
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