TESS starts working: first results of operations of NASA’s new telescope
10 January 21:11
NASA has published the first results of operations of its new telescope TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). During the first three months of operation, the device designed to search for exoplanets, found three worlds outside our solar system.
The first of the worlds discovered is Pi Mensae C, a planet about twice Earth’s size orbiting its star in six days and located 60 light-years away. Its parent star is similar to the Sun in characteristics.
The next world is LHS 3884b, a rocky planet about 1.3 times Earth’s size located 49 light-years away (in the constellation Indus). The planet’s parent star is a red dwarf, one fifth the size of the Sun. The planet orbits its star in 11 hours, so the bodies are very close (rocks on the planet’s side facing the Sun can sometimes become lava).
The third discovery is a planet called HD 21749b. It is three times Earth’s size and 23 times its mass. The object orbits its star (80% the Sun’s mass, located 53 light-years away) in 36 days. The temperature on the surface of the celestial body stands at 150 degrees Celsius. Scientists say that the planet has a greater density than Neptune, but it isn’t rocky. It could be a water planet or have a very dense atmosphere.
There is a chance that there is another planet about the size of Earth that orbits the star every eight days, next to HD 21749b, but the data is yet to be confirmed.
In general, astronomers are observing and studying more than 280 exoplanet candidates suggested by the telescope.
Among other tasks performed by TESS, NASA named documentation of events like supernova explosions. The telescope caught six of these events during its operation.
TESS is a space telescope designed to search for exoplanets using the transit method (when a planet passes in front of a star and creates a shadow on its surface). The telescope was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of NASA’s Small Explorer program. TESS was launched in early 2018 and started collecting scientific data at the end of July.