New Planet Found By Citizen Team of Volunteer Astronomers

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The Kepler Space Telescope is sleeping and not expected to wake up since it’s out of fuel. However, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or as we all know it – TESS, is picking up the job and doing a great job, already discovering three new exoplanets.

The data sent to Earth by Kepler was analyzed and sorted by algorithms to find planets from other solar systems. What NASA’s algorithms didn’t see was one small planet almost twice our planet’s size. The planet is called K2-288Bb, and it could look like Neptune: rich in gas and rocky.

A Very Rare Planet

Except for being discovered by volunteer astronomers, the great news about his planet is that its size is rare outside our solar system.

In a news release, the lead author of the paper that describes the newly found planet, Adina Feinstein (a graduate student at the University of Chicago), stated:

“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.”

The paper will be published in The Astronomical Journal.

According to the study, the planet is 226 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. It is part of a stellar system that has two dim stars which are about 5.1 billion miles apart. One of the stars is a third of our sun’s size, and the other is almost half of our sun. The new planet seems to orbit the smaller star, and it needs 3.1 days to do it.

K2-288Bb Could Harbor Life

If the planet is not hit by radiation, it could mean that it might support life. Additionally, its star could be capable of maintaining the biosphere.

K2-288Bb was discovered by volunteers that examined light-curve data from Kepler with their eyes and not with a program. The citizen program is called Exoplanet Explorers, and Adina said that “it took the keen eyes of citizen scientists to make this extremely valuable find and point us to it.”

Even if Kepler has died off, it still lives through the data sent back on Earth and through TESS’ current survey of the stars and possible new exoplanets.


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