NASA’s planet hunter spied 2,200 candidate worlds in its first 2 years

“What’s exciting is looking at the TESS exoplanet map as a sort of to-do list – with 2,000 things on it,” said Natalia Guerrero, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and lead author of the article. , in a NASA. declaration. RELATED: NASA’s TESS Planet Hunting Spacecraft Captures Dramatic Panorama Of The Milky Way Galaxy

To produce the new catalog, dozens of scientists looked at TESS observations of more than 16,000 targets to clear candidate planets of other types of phenomena, finding 2,241 potential alien worlds. Of all these possible new planets, a few stand out, of course, including some discoveries that represent firsts for the mission. Pi Mensae c, for example, a sub-Neptune that can harbor a thick atmosphere, was the first discovery of the TESS mission. TOI 700 d is the first planet identified by TESS that may be the size of Earth and orbit within the habitable zone of its star.

This reality means that the catalog, as long as it is a body of work in itself, also represents a buffet of future scientific research. “It’s amazing work – a rich stock of exoplanet candidates for the community to mine and explore for years to come,” said Jessie Christiansen, NASA Exoplanet Science Institute researcher and co-author. of the study. same statement. Related: An Earth-sized Planet In The Living Zone? NASA’s new discovery is a special world.

The first step for each so-called “object of interest” will be to confirm that the observations do represent a planet, a process called confirmation of the planet. Confirming an exoplanet candidate requires measuring both the size and mass of an object to be sure it’s really a blip-causing planet, rather than some other phenomenon. Scientists have so far only confirmed 120 of the candidates described in the TESS catalog, according to the NASA statement, because the process requires instruments that are always very busy. Researchers also performed initial tests evaluating these candidate planets, capturing more than 500 other phenomena disguised as alien worlds – sometimes a phenomenon in space, sometimes an oddity produced by the activities of the spacecraft. (Astronomers write that scientists are likely to find more false positives by analyzing the candidates in more detail.)

TESS is still watching; NASA has extended the mission for another two-year stay, which will keep the spacecraft in operation until September 2022. And scientists will work with the existing data, including the new catalog, for years to come. Other findings are intriguing in themselves. DS Tuc A b is almost six times the size of Earth and may only be 45 million years old. LHS 3844b makes a complete circuit of its star in just 11 hours, although it is probably only a bare rock. TOI 1690 b can orbit a white dwarf, the dense core of a star that has lost most of its light elements.

Email Meghan Bartels at or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. “Now the role of the community is to connect the dots,” Guerrero said. “It’s really cool because the field is so young, there is still a lot of room for discovery: those ‘Aha’ moments.” The catalog is described in an article uploaded to the preprint server on March 23.

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