JAN 08, 2019 06:00 PM PST

NASA's TESS Spacecraft Detects its Third Exoplanet

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

NASA may have said goodbye to its Kepler Space Telescope at the end of October, but the American space agency continues its search for distant exoplanets with the help of its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) spacecraft.

TESS began surveying the cosmos for distant exoplanets in July 2018. Since then, the mission has already turned up at least three previously-unknown alien worlds from outside of our solar system. Details encompassing the third of the aforementioned exoplanets are published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

An artist's rendition of a distant world just recently discovered by NASA's TESS mission.

Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, edited by MIT News

Astronomers have allegedly named their newfound world HD 21749b, and according to the paper, the exoplanet is about three times larger than Earth and resides approximately 53 light-years away in the constellation Reticulum where it orbits a bright dwarf star once every 36 days.

The rapid orbital period is a consequence of the exoplanet’s close proximity to its host star; however, it’s not the shortest orbital period on record. In fact, the newfound exoplanet sports the longest orbital period of all three worlds discovered via the TESS mission thus far. The other two, LHS 3844b and Pi Mensae b, orbit their host stars once every 11 hours and 6.3 days respectively.

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright," explained study lead author Diana Dragomir from MIT.

"We know a lot about atmospheres of hot planets, but because it's very hard to find small planets that orbit farther from their stars, and are therefore cooler, we haven't been able to learn much about these smaller, cooler planets. But here we were lucky, and caught this one, and can now study it in more detail."

Related: Have astronomers discovered an exomoon for the first time?

Despite how closely HD 21749b orbits its host star, the exoplanet’s surface temperature allegedly hovers around the 300-degree Fahrenheit mark. While that’s a lot warmer than Earth, astronomers say this is surprisingly cool given the exoplanet’s proximity to its host star.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, astronomers think HD 21749b might be a gaseous exoplanet, which speaks to its uninhabitable qualities. Furthermore, the atmosphere of this distant world seems to be denser than that of Neptune or Uranus from our own solar system.

"We think this planet wouldn't be as gaseous as Neptune or Uranus, which are mostly hydrogen and really puffy," Dragomir added. "The planet likely has a density of water, or a thick atmosphere."

Related: NASA scientists reflect on the now-retired Kepler mission

The TESS mission is still young, and so astronomers are sure to find many more exoplanets as observations continue. It should be interesting to see what they’ll uncover next.

Source: MIT, Astrophysical Journal Letters

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 16, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 16, 2019
"Buckyball" Molecules Found in Deep Space
The intricacy of life's chemical components has been baffling scientists for a long time. How do simple molecules such as carbon dioxide and methane ge...
DEC 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 16, 2019
SpaceX Resupplies the International Space Station
SpaceX launched another resupply mission for the International Space Station on Thursday, subtly named CRS-18, coinciding with the same day that the commer...
DEC 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 16, 2019
How Long Will it Be Before We Start Mining Asteroids?
The idea of mining an asteroid probably sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie, but as it turns out, it’s something that we&rsquo...
DEC 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 16, 2019
Will Aerogel Help Us Colonize Mars?
As the interest in colonizing Mars grows, researchers are scrambling to find miracle materials that might help with this long-term goal. In addition to shi...
DEC 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 16, 2019
Elon Musk Shows Off SpaceX's Shiny New Starship
If you’ve been paying any attention to SpaceX lately, then you’ve undoubtedly caught wind of the plethora of controlled launching and landing t...
DEC 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 16, 2019
NASA and SpaceX Reevaluate Commercial Crew Timeline
It appeared that there was recently some tension between NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk regarding the American space agency&rs...
Loading Comments...