(ReliableNews.org) – The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has the job of monitoring large sections of the sky for just under a month at a time to search for planets beyond Earth’s Milky Way. The satellite launched in the spring of 2018 onboard a SpaceX rocket to take note of the planets it found. NASA expects it to discover about 300 stars that are either Earth-sized or under twice the size. On January 10, the space organization announced that TESS found a planet about the size of ours in what scientists refer to as the habitable zone of the star it orbits.
Details of the Discovery
The planet TOI 700 e is the fourth plant found in this particular system, which lies about 100 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado, about 600 trillion miles away. NASA also identified TOI 700 b, c, and d, but d is the only planet along with 700 e that has an orbit in the zone where habitability is possible, meaning there’s a chance the place could either currently have surface water or may have had it at some point.
TOI 700 e orbits TOI 700, a cool M dwarf star. It’s about 5% smaller than Earth, has a 28-day orbit, and scientists believe the surface is rocky. The discovery of planets like Earth gives scientists the opportunity to learn about our own solar system today and its history.
How Was It Discovered?
In 2018, TESS set out on a mission to observe the entire sky over a two-year period. It would accomplish this task by dividing space into 26 sectors, which it would stare at each one for 27 days at a minimum. TESS planned to study the brightest stars in each section for a total of two minutes before moving to the next.
Scientists first pointed the satellite at the southern sky for a year, then turned the satellite’s attention to the north. NASA added another year to TESS’ mission in 2020, directing it back to the south, which is when it picked up on TOI 700 e. The signal for the Earth-like planet was “faint,” which is why scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, didn’t pick it up in the data from the satellite’s first year. A graduate researcher at the center said had they not added that extra study year, NASA might not have observed the new planet during the mission.
CBS reported that TESS has found 66 new exoplanets so far, and more than 2,000 others could possibly join the ranks as well, once astronomers finish analyzing the information gathered.
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