NASA's most recent planet-hunting satellite, known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, has just discovered a type of new planet - one that's missing from our solar system.
Launched in 2018, led and run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, TESS has been on the lookout for these exact types of discoveries.
Now its succeeded in part of its mission, by finding three new planets that are based around a neighboring star.
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The findings of the mission have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
TOI-270 exactly what the satellite was looking for
University of California associate professor of planetary astrophysics, Stephen Kane, who is assisting NASA's exoplanetary mission, said that the TOI-270 - or the TESS Object of Interest - is precisely what the satellite has been searching for.
Exoplanets, like the ones found here, are planets that lie outside of our solar system.
TESS discovered two that are gaseous and approximately twice the size of the planet we call home, whereas the third, smaller, planet is rocky and just slightly bigger than Earth.
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. Moreover, its deemed as our 'neighbor' as it's close enough to be seen brightly.
[email protected]_TESS just completed the first year of its mission, in which it surveyed the southern sky. This week, scientists are gathering @MIT to share new and exciting results made from studying this first year of data collected by TESS! #TESSConpic.twitter.com/yX4HnszeDY— NASA_TESS (@NASA_TESS) July 29, 2019
It's also supposedly in a 'quiet' spot, with few flares, allowing scientists and astrophysicists to view it more clearly than others.
Kane said, "We've found very few planets like this in the habitable zone, and many fewer around a quiet star, so this is rare."
"We don't have a planet quite like this in our solar system," he continued.
It doesn't end there, though. The team plans on following up its observations next year when the James Webb Space Telescope launches.
The research team is looking to see if the planet could be habitable by measuring its composition for oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.
The reason it's called 'neighboring' is that its a 'mere' 73 light-yearsaway.
"The diameter of our galaxy is 100,000 light-years, and our galaxy is just one of millions of galaxies," said Kane.
Seventy-three light-years away does, indeed, sound like a close neighbor in this instance.
The search for more missing or additional stars and planets continues for TESS.
Explore TESS here to look at how it operates.