NASA’s probe discovers a new planet

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Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite: UPSC IAS Exam

NASA’s latest planet-hunting probe has discovered a new world outside our solar system, orbiting a dwarf star 53 light years away.This is the third new planet confirmed by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) since its launch in April last year.

Key Facts:

  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is a space telescope for NASA’s Explorers program, designed to search for exoplanets using the transit method in an area 400 times larger than that covered by the Kepler mission. It was launched on April 18, 2018 atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
  • The planet, named HD 21749b, orbits a bright, nearby dwarf star about 53 light years away, in the constellation Reticulum, and appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by TESS.
  • All three planets were discovered in the first three months of TESS observations. “It’s the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright.
  • The planet is about three times the size of the earth, which puts it in the category of a “sub-Neptune.”
  • The planet is rocky and therefore habitable; it’s more likely made of gas, of a kind that is much more dense than the atmospheres of either Neptune or Uranus.

Significance:

  • The planet-hunting orbital telescope designed to detect worlds beyond our solar system.
  • It is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.
  • It expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or “super Earth” sized — no larger than twice as big as our home planet.
  • It will ultimately help catalog at least 100 more rocky exoplanets for further study in what has become one of astronomy’s newest fields of exploration.

Source:The Hindu

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