NASA Probe Discovers Third New Planet Outside Solar System

NASA Probe Discovers Third New Planet Outside Solar System

"But here, we were lucky and caught this one and can now study it in more detail". Like Earth, they are small, rocky and usually within the habitable zone of their star, meaning liquid water can exist on the surface.

The new exoplanet, named HD 21749b, was discovered by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in April.

A year ago at the American Astronomical Society meeting, it was announced that citizen scientists helped discover five planets between the size of Earth and Neptune around star K2-138, the first multiplanet system found through crowdsourcing.

"It's a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon", said Feinstein, who presented the discovery at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle on Monday, Jan. 7.

TESS works better than team members had dared to dream, says George Ricker, a physicist at MIT and the mission's principal investigator.

The satellite trains its four onboard cameras on each sector for 27 days, taking in light from the stars in that particular segment before shifting to view the next one.

Launched in April 2018 for a two-year mission, TESS will survey almost the entire sky by monitoring and piecing together overlapping slices of the night sky. The satellite will spend the first year surveying the sky in the Southern Hemisphere, before swiveling around to take in the Northern Hemisphere sky. For their new analysis, the researchers looked through this data, collected between July 25 and October 14. As the satellite only collects data from a sector for 27 days, it's hard to identify planets with orbits longer than that time period; by the time a planet passes around again, the satellite may have shifted to view another slice of the sky.

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Located 226 light-years away in the constellation Taurus, the planet lies in a stellar system known as K2-288, which contains a pair of dim, cool M-type stars separated by about 5.1 billion miles (8.2 billion kilometers) - roughly six times the distance between Saturn and the Sun.

Examining data from the fourth observing campaign of Kepler's K2 mission, the team noticed two likely planetary transits in the system. "We don't know how that could form". They determined that they should be able to find the signal again, in TESS's "sector 3" data - which they succeeded in doing.

"Because there was an interruption in data around that time, we initially didn't see a second transit, and were pretty disappointed", Dragomir recalls. "TESS found as many in its first month".

"This star was already known to host a planet, called Pi Mensae b, which is about 10 times the mass of Jupiter and follows a long and very eccentric orbit", said Chelsea Huang, a Juan Carlos Torres Fellow at the MIT Kavli Institute. But scientists require a third transit before claiming the discovery of a candidate planet, and there wasn't a third signal in the observations they reviewed.

"We've confirmed three planets so far, and there are so many more that are just waiting for telescope and people time to be confirmed", Dragomir says.

So the reprocessed, "cleaned-up" light curves were uploaded through the Exoplanet Explorers project on online platform Zooniverse, and the public was invited to "go forth and find us planets", Feinstein said.

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. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

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