Nasa spacecraft spots gaseous planet 23 times the size of Earth

Nasa spacecraft spots gaseous planet 23 times the size of Earth

NASA's planet-hunting telescope is making landmark discoveries at an astonishing pace and has now confirmed discovery of a third new planet and a handful of exploding stars in our "cosmic backyard".

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) which launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) for searching exoplanets in April, 2018 has discovered a third small planet outside our solar system.

HD 21749b appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by Tess. HD 21749b journeys around its star in a relatively leisurely 36 days, compared to the two other planets - Pi Mensae b, a "super-Earth" with a 6.3-day orbit, and LHS 3844b, a rocky world that speeds around its star in just 11 hours.

Previous year 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. Why scientists are saying the new planet's surface is relatively cool is because its star is nearly as bright as our very own Sun, the team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston said.

"It could be a water planet or have some other type of substantial atmosphere", said Dragomir who serves as lead author of a paper describing the discovery. "But here, we were lucky and caught this one and can now study it in more detail". Few planets that orbit close to their stars are more than 1.5 times as large as Earth, yet K2-288Bb is estimated to be roughly 1.9 times the size of our planet. It's hard to tell whether the planet is rocky like Earth or a gas giant like Neptune.

Experts still aren't sure whether the planet hosts life, but say if plants were transferred there, they would likely survive. They searched Kepler data for evidence of transits, the regular dimming of a star when an orbiting planet moves across the star's face.

"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 new planet, K2-288Bb, orbits the smaller, dimmer star every 31.3 days.

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. "We don't know how that could form".

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Data from Kepler has helped scientists determine whether a given planet has a solid surface, like Earth, or a gaseous one, such as Jupiter.

How a small inner planet stays on that path as a bigger planet lurches on an elliptical orbit around the same star is a mystery.

As far as what the planet may be like, the jury is still out.

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.

"There was quite some detective work involved, and the right people were there at the right time", Dragomir said.

"Reorienting Kepler relative to the Sun caused miniscule changes in the shape of the telescope and the temperature of the electronics, which inevitably affected Kepler's sensitive measurements in the first days of each campaign", said study co-author Geert Barentsen, an astrophysicist at NASA's Ames Research Center, in a statement.

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.

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