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NASA’s Planet-Hunter TESS Has Just Been Launched to Check Out the Near Exoplanet Neighborhood

18 Apr 2018, 23:53 UTC
NASA’s Planet-Hunter TESS Has Just Been Launched to Check Out the Near Exoplanet Neighborhood Illustration: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI); Science: NASA, ESA, and T. Evans (University of Exeter)

On January 5, 2010, NASA issued  landmark press release : the Kepler Space Telescope had discovered its first five new extra-solar planets.

The previous twenty years had seen the discovery of just over 400 planets beyond the solar system. The majority of these new worlds were Jupiter-mass gas giants, many bunched up against their star on orbits far shorter than that of Mercury. We had learnt that our planetary system was not alone in the Galaxy, but small rocky worlds on temperate orbits might still have been rare.

Based on just six weeks of data, these first discoveries from Kepler were also hot Jupiters; the easiest planets to find due to their large size and swiftly repeating signature as they zipped around the star. But expectations were high that this would be just the beginning.

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