NASA's TESS Discovers A Nearby Super-Earth That Can Harbor Life

NASA's TESS Discovers A Nearby Super-Earth That Can Harbor Life

TESS has been up roaming the skies for 12 months now and has discovered 21 planets and 850 potential exoplanets - planets outside of our solar system - in that time.

[Mirror] The search for life beyond our planet has just taken a massive leap, as NASA has discovered the "first nearby super-Earth.' Using its TESS satellite, NASA has discovered a planet about 31 light-years away from our planet, and its conditions mean that it could be habitable".

"This is exciting, as this is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbour life -uncovered with help from TESS, our small, mighty mission with a huge reach", said Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy at Cornell University in the United States and a member of the TESS science team.

Astronomers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands and the University of La Laguna, both in Spain, announced the discovery of the GJ 357 system July 31 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics .

The newly-discovered planets orbit a star called GJ 357, classified as an M-type dwarf one-third the mass of our sun, and 40% cooler than our sun.

Researchers said that GJ 357 d has a thick atmosphere, so it could maintain liquid water on the surface like planet Earth could.

The reason why scientists are pretty excited about the discovery, is because they think it might have liquid water on it.

"I think it's an awesome discovery", Lisa Kaltenegger, from the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell, said.

At the moment scientists have found 4025 exoplanets, but only 45 of them are located relatively close to the Solar system.

"We describe GJ 357 b as a 'hot Earth, '" explained co-author Enric Pallé, an astrophysicist at the IAC and Luque's doctoral supervisor.

"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", said Diana Kossakowski of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany. The planet weighs at least 6.1 times Earth's mass, and orbits the star every 55.7 days at a range about 20 per cent of Earth's distance from the Sun.

TESS spotted the star dimming slightly every 3.9 days, suggesting planets were orbiting it.

Researchers also estimate GJ 357d could be roughly the same size as Earth or up to twice the size. That planet was GJ 357 b, a so-called "hot Earth" about 22% larger than Earth, according to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, which guides TESS.

"Although it can not host life, it is noteworthy as the third-nearest transiting exoplanet known to date and one of the best rocky planets we have for measuring the composition of any atmosphere it may possess".



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