NASA’s TESS Planet Hunter May Have Found “Goldilocks”—An Earth-Sized Exoplanet

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Meet TOI 700 d: The First Earth-Sized Exoplanet Found in a Habitable Zone!

Many astronomers these days find themselves in the planet-hunting game. A couple of big reasons for that include a fascination with searching for extraterrestrial life and the fact that the more we know about exoplanets, the more we can understand about how the universe formed. Now, NASA’s TESS Planet Hunter found its first Earth-sized exoplanet in the “habitable zone” of its solar system. And this discovery could have huge implications for the study of exoplanets.

On Monday, researchers at NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) announced the discovery of TOI 700 d, an Earth-sized planet that could theoretically support liquid water on its surface.

So, Are We Headed There?

Settle down, Beavis. TOI 700 d is 101.5 light-years away. So, no. We’re not going. Besides, that’s not what exoplanet-hunting is all about anyway. The reality for this generation and at least the next few generations is that we simply can’t travel the vast distances between solar systems, let alone galaxies. However, while 101.5 light-years is a prohibitive distance for travel, it’s actually really god for studying this new “Goldilocks” Earth-sized exoplanet. 

In a statement, Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA HQ in Washington, said, “TESS was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars.” He continued, “Planets around nearby stars are easiest to follow up with larger telescopes in space and on Earth. Discovering TOI 700 d is a key science finding for TESS.”

How NASA’s TESS Planet Hunter Works

TESS launched in April of 2018 and it uses the “transit method” for finding exoplanets. It looks for dips in the brightness of stars that indicate orbiting planets. 

About This New Earth-Sized Exoplanet

TOI 700 (Tess Object of Interest 700) is the star/solar system TESS is looking at. The “d” designation is for the Goldilocks planet in question. Planet d orbits its sun on the outer edge of the system. In fact, it’s the furthest from its sun. It orbits every 37 days, so a year there is like a month here. Its size compares with Earth, though it’s about 20% bigger. As for stellar energy, it gets about 86% as much from its star as we get from ours. This means it’s definitely what we would consider a “habitable” world. While there’s no proof yet, the planet does provide hope for those looking for extraterrestrial life. It also holds promise for researchers studying how our own planet formed.

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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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