Planets Discovered

July 31, 2019
Karena Phan with TIME reporting
NEW PLANETS NASA’s satellite TESS discovered three new planets outside our solar system. These discoveries will help scientists study how planetary systems form and evolve.
NASA’S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER/SCOTT WIESSINGE

NASA’s new satellite, TESS, is succeeding on its mission. It has found new planets outside our solar system. TESS stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It has discovered three planets in a solar system 73 light-years from Earth. That may seem far. But according to TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger, it’s “one town over on the scale of the universe.”

The planets orbit a dwarf star called TOI 270. (TOI stands for TESS object of interest.) The dwarf star acts like our sun, but it’s cooler and smaller. The planet closest to TOI 270 is called TOI 270 b. It’s probably a rocky planet. It’s also “oven-hot,” according to NASA. The atmosphere on TOI 270 b is around 490°F.

The other two planets are gas planets. They are like smaller versions of Neptune. TOI 270 c and TOI 207 d are more than twice the size of Earth.

“This system is exactly what TESS was designed to find,” writes lead researcher Maximilian Günther at NASA’s website.

NASA launched TESS in 2018. Now it plans to build a telescope that can analyze the atmospheres of the planets TESS finds. If construction goes ahead, that telescope will be ready in 2021. TESS and the new telescope would help scientists study how planetary systems are formed. Using them, scientists would search for life beyond Earth.