Research

3 more new worlds discovered by MIT-developed satellite

3 more new worlds discovered by MIT-developed satellite

The planet was found by TESS, NASA's planet-chasing space telescope meant to discover exoplanets that go among us and their home star, by identifying the obvious darkening as the planet obstructs a little level of the star's light.

This discovery rounds out the first successful year of observations by TESS.

One of the planets appears to be a mysterious "missing link" unlike anything in our solar system.

The sub-Neptunes are particularly interesting, study team members said, because they may represent a missing link between rocky worlds such as Earth and ice giants like Neptune.

TOI 270 c, in comparison, is the largest in the system at 2.4 Earth radii with a cooler temperature of 300F. Considering its close proximity to the earth and its potential for future observation, experts believe that planets like these could the key to unveiling mysteries surrounding alien life.

TESS Object of Interest 270 is a faint, cool star more commonly recognized by its catalog name: UCAC4 191-004642.

Maximilian Günther, a postdoctoral researcher in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and lead author of the study, said in the statement there is a good possibility that the system includes other planets farther out that could be within the habitable zone.

The smaller planet is in fact in the habitable zone, meaning it's at a distance from a star that is warm enough to heat its water to a liquid state. The planets line up, with the ratio of their orbits falling very close to whole numbers: The two inner planets have a ratio of 3:5, since the super-Earth takes three days to orbit its star and the closer sub-Neptune takes five days.

Compare and contrast worlds in the TOI 270 system with these illustrations. "And you can nearly expect, if there are more planets, the next one would be somewhere further out, at another integer ratio".

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TESS was launched on April 18 past year and is created to observe nearly the entire sky. A dip of light from one of these distant light sources could indicate the presence of a planet transiting across the surface of its parent star relative to Earth.

In April, it found its first Earth-sized planet, which orbits a star 52 light years away - though temperatures of more than 400ºC rule out any prospect of finding life on the planet.

Artist's view of planets transiting red dwarf star in TRAPPIST-1 system.

As the old host star's activity is relatively quiet, the system is well suited for further analysis, with the researchers planning to focus other instruments - like the upcoming James Webb Space telescope - on TOI-270.

'It is an exceptional laboratory for not one, but many reasons - it really ticks all the boxes'. The study has been submitted to the Astronomical Journal and is available on arXiv.

Astronomers using a telescope TESS has discovered an exoplanet with three suns.

The space telescope uses an array of wide-field cameras to perform a survey of 85 percent of the sky.

NASA says that when the spacecraft completes its survey of the northern sky in 2020, it will have mapped over 3/4 of the sky.