NASA Satellite Discovers Planet That Could Potentially Support Life

Pablo Tucker
August 2, 2019

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered three new planets, all of which orbit the same star.

These two planets, GJ 357 c and d, were found using the radial velocity method: by looking at the slight wobble in the star's motions caused by its planets' tiny gravitational tugs.

The researchers believe there there is a good chance that more planets might lie further out in the star system - some of which might potentially lie the star's habitable zone.

Even within our own solar system, the planets Mars and Venus may have once supported life - along with moons such as Titan and Europa.

"This technique is precisely what TESS was created to search out - small, temperate planets that go, or transit, in front of an inactive host star, one missing excessive stellar exercise, akin to flares", mentioned the research's lead author, Maximilian Günther, in a statement on NASA's website. The planet's size and composition are unknown, but a rocky world with this mass would range from about one to two times Earth's size.

Since the exoplanet orbits around its host star at about a fifth of the distance Earth revolves around the sun, it may have conditions similar to Earth, as per Cornell Chronicle yesterday. It's incredibly close to its star, completing an orbit every three-and-a-half Earth days, but because TOI 207 isn't as intense as our own Sun, the planet isn't quite as hot as you might expect.

The star they orbit is smaller and cooler than the sun.

The study was published on July 31 in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. "If the planet has a dense atmosphere, which will take future studies to determine, it could trap enough heat to warm the planet and allow liquid water on its surface". TESS did not observe transits from this planet, which suggests its orbit is slightly tilted - perhaps by less than 1 degree - relative to the hot Earth's orbit, so it never passes across the star from our perspective. "With a thick atmosphere, the planet GJ 357 d could maintain liquid water on its surface like Earth, and we could pick out signs of life with telescopes that will soon be online".

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has only been scanning the skies for about a year, but it has already identified several new candidate exoplanets.

NASA recently discovered a system with three planets, each a little larger than the earth. Exoplanet GJ 357 c is at least 3.4 times more massive than Earth and sizzles at 260 degrees Fahrenheit.

The transits TESS observed belong to GJ 357 b, a planet about 22% larger than Earth.

As the old host star's activity is relatively quiet, the system is well suited for further analysis, with the researchers planning to focus other instruments - like the upcoming James Webb Space telescope - on TOI-270. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

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