NASA Satellite Reveals Gas-Formed ‘Super Earth’ Planet

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That's actually quite cool, considering how close the planet is to its star.

The discovery was announced Monday at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

The new planet's surface reaches about 300℉, which, according to the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, is "relatively cool", considering the proximity to its star, which is nearly as bright as our Sun.

The "sub-Neptune" planet is about three times Earth's size, but 23 times its mass.

However, it is unlikely that the planet is rocky and therefore habitable; it's more likely made of gas, of a kind that is much more dense than the atmospheres of either Neptune or Uranus.

The boffins have also detected evidence of a second planet, though not yet confirmed, in the same planetary system, with a shorter, 7.8-day orbit, according to the IANS report.

Pi Mensae c is about twice the size of Earth and orbits the star Pi Mensae, 60 light-years away in the Mensa constellation. Compared to the Sun, the larger of the two stars in the binary system is around half as massive, while the smaller is only about one-third as massive. Because TESS is programmed to look at a portion of the sky for only 27 days, any planets with a longer orbit are hard to identify. The star is a cool M-type dwarf star about one-fifth the size of our Sun.

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If it is confirmed as a planet, it could be the first Earth-sized planet discovered by TESS. Among planets that orbit close to their stars, there's a curious dearth of worlds between about 1.5 and two times Earth's size. "So it's going really well, and TESS is already helping us to learn about the diversity of these small planets". The findings from TESS are meant to provide a guide for more detailed observations by space telescopes yet to be built, including the European Space Agency's CHEOPS planet-hunting probe and NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

Like NASA's recently departed Kepler space telescope, TESS watches for the faint dip in light that occurs when an unseen planet passes in front of a star's disk. For what it's worth, several TESS finds have been the subject of pre-print research papers.

In its primary two-year mission, TESS will observe almost the whole sky, providing a rich catalog of worlds around nearby stars. Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time. The satellite will cover virtually the entire sky by the end of its two-year prime mission. "We're only halfway through TESS's first year of operations, and the data floodgates are just beginning to open", he said.

A different group of astronomers had studied the HD 21749 system a decade ago using HARPS, which finds planets by noticing the tiny wobbles that their gravitational tugs induce in their host stars.

NASA believe they may have found a planet that could contain life.

If you think scientists aren't the most imaginative bunch when it comes to naming things, then think again because boffins over in the States think they may have discovered a 'super Earth'. Like Earth, they are small, rocky and usually within the habitable zone of their star, meaning liquid water can exist on the surface.

The pair were working as interns with Joshua Schlieder, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, at the time. That telescope, launching in 2021, would be able to characterize the details and atmospheres of exoplanets in ways scientists have not been able to do.

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