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TESS Discovers Its First Earth-sized Planet

18 Apr 2019, 19:47 UTC
TESS Discovers Its First Earth-sized Planet
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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, has discovered its first Earth-sized exoplanet. The planet, named HD 21749c, is the smallest world outside our solar system that TESS has identified yet.In a paper published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, an MIT-led team of astronomers reports that the new planet orbits the star HD 21749 — a very nearby star, just 52 light years from Earth. The star also hosts a second planet — HD 21749b — a warm “sub-Neptune” with a longer, 36-day orbit, which the team reported previously and now details further in the current paper.The new Earth-sized planet is likely a rocky though uninhabitable world, as it circles its star in just 7.8 days — a relatively tight orbit that would generate surface temperatures on the planet of up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.The discovery of this Earth-sized world is nevertheless exciting, as it demonstrates TESS’ ability to pick out small planets around nearby stars. In the near future, the TESS team expects the probe should reveal even colder planets, with conditions more suitable for hosting life.“For stars that are very close by and very bright, we expected to find up to a couple dozen Earth-sized planets,” says lead ...

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