TESS Discovers Three New Worlds

TESS Discovers Three New Worlds

Tess was launched on 18 April 2018 and is created to observe nearly the entire sky.

The space telescope uses an array of wide-field cameras to perform a survey of 85 percent of the sky.

The light from each of the many stars contained in a sector is observed continuously for a period of 27 days. While thousands of exoplanet discoveries have already been made, only a handful have been discovered circling relatively young stars.

"TOI-270 is a true Disneyland for exoplanet science, and one of the prime systems TESS was set out to discover", Mr Günther said.

The trio of newfound worlds orbit around an M-dwarf star that has already experienced its youthful energetic phase, and now shines with a steady light. The planet is almost six times the size of the Earth, making it in between the sizes of Neptune and Saturn, which indicates it is most similar to the gas giants in our Solar System.

The team hopes that further study may reveal planets as-of-yet undiscovered in the TOI 270 system. The newly discovered world has three suns on its horizon, all red dwarfs, in a system 22.5 light-years away from Earth.

Based on the available data, the team believe that all three worlds are tidally locked.

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Mr Günther added: "For TOI-270, these planets line up like pearls on a string".

Our solar system is composed of small, rocky planets like Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury, or much larger gaseous planets like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus - but no planets around half Neptune's size. Studying them could therefore help researchers understand if ice giants and terrestrial planets follow the same basic evolutionary path, or if they diverge in some significant way.

"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", said lead researcher Maximilian Gunther, a Torres Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "You can really do all the things you want to do in exoplanet science, with this system".

"We've found very few planets like this in the habitable zone, and many fewer around a quiet star, so this is rare", Stephen Kane, a University of California, Riverside associate professor who worked on the study, said in a statement.

The smaller planet is in fact in the habitable zone, meaning it's at a distance from a star that is warm enough to heat its water to a liquid state. The outer two, TOI-270c and d, are the sub-Neptunes. The researchers eventually found evidence of three planets, which orbit the star every 3.4, 5.7 and 11.4 Earth days, respectively.

Furthermore, the three planets line up in what's known as a "resonant chain", which means the ratio of their orbits are close to whole numbers.

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