Missing Link Planets Discovered by NASA Satellite

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TESS – NASA’s Planet-Hunting Satellite Had a Great First Season

A year ago, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) started hunting for exoplanets. Exoplanets orbit a sun other than our own, and we’ve only recently started seeing them. Since the first one was actually observed in 1995, thousands have been found, including a few “earth-like” planets in a system about 40 light-years away. Today, NASA published a study detailing three new potential “missing link planets.”

TESS discovered over twenty new exoplanets in her first year, including the three special ones detailed in the report. Those three planets are special for several different reasons. Chief among those reasons is the search for habitable planets. The star system in which these three exoplanets live is potentially home to a few worlds in the “goldilocks zone.”

Missing Link Planets

Two sub-Neptune planets and a rocky Earth-like planet showed up on TESS’s instruments. They are some of the smallest exoplanets as yet discovered. And they’re relatively close at 73 light-years away. Scientists named the M-Dwarf star the planets orbit TOI-270. In case you were wondering, that stands for TESS Object of Interest number 270.  The Sub-Neptunes are similar in size to the rocky planets in our own solar system.  This is what makes them missing link planets. The rocky Super-Earth is about 20% larger than Earth and orbits its sun every 3.4 days.

“TOI-270 will soon allow us to study this ‘missing link’ between rocky Earth-like planets and gas-dominant mini-Neptunes, because here all of these types formed in the same system,” Maximilian Günther said.  Günther is the study author and a Torres Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT.

While none of the three stars explored in the study fit the criteria for habitability, the sun they orbit could support life on worlds a bit further away.  Of the three planets, the one named Planet D is the furthest out from TOI-270, but it’s still about 5 million kilometers away from where astronomers believe the habitable zone to be.  

TESS only just finished her first year of service and the astronomers at NASA and all over the world are excited to see what else this world-hunter can bag!

Speaking of the Hunting Metaphor

Now that I got the serious reporting out of the way, I feel compelled to tell you, readers, about my first thought when I heard about this story. We need a movie called Good Planet Hunting, where there’s a whole planet of underconfident geniuses just waiting for some planet of Morks (RIP, Robin Williams) to come and show them how to self-actualize. Now, the only reason I want this is so that we can have a scene like this based on it:

 


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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4 Responses

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  2. If we encountered any civilization that was just a tad bit undeveloped as us, I wonder if we’d see a significant uptick in anthropologists.

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