The leader of the TESS mission, MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager had an exciting announcement. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has successfully started its operations and already found two new exoplanet candidates, sending the information back to Earth. Seager stated on Twitter the following:
“The team is excited about what TESS might discover next. We do know that planets are out there, littering the night sky, just waiting to be found.”
Both candidates will have to receive confirmation from astronomers, but experts already believe the two are really alien planets.
60 Light Years Away: Pi Mensae Star
The Pi Mensae star which is 60 light years away from Earth was announced on 19 September. The star has a planet which orbits it every 6.3 days, and it looks like it’s a water world – boiling water, to be more exact, considering the planet is very close to its star. This planet is almost twice the size of Earth. Here’s the announcement on Twitter:
“Fun notes for @NASA_TESS 1st planet candidate: Pi Mensae star is visible in the night sky, the planet’s mass & radius show a water-like density (infers water / gases), and it’s the system’s 2nd known planet (the other has 10x Jupiter’s mass & orbits every 5.7 years).”
Earth-Sized Planet, 49 Light Years Away
The second candidate is closer to our planet, at 49 light years distance. It has almost the size of Earth, but the speed at which circles the star is huge: in just 11 hours, it makes a full orbit!
TESS is the successor of the old Kepler Space Telescope, which has discovered more than 2,000 confirmed exoplanets in the last years. Kepler is now low on fuel and should retire in the near future. TESS will continue its work and focus on the stars closer to us. Researchers expect the newer technology will find about 20,000 exoplanets more before retiring.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.