NASA's TESS Telescope Just Found An Unusually Cool Sub-Neptune Alien Planet And Six Supernovae

Tuesday, 08 January 2019 - 12:25PM
Astronomy
Space
NASA
Tuesday, 08 January 2019 - 12:25PM
NASA's TESS Telescope Just Found An Unusually Cool Sub-Neptune Alien Planet And Six Supernovae
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Composite: NASA Goddard & Pixabay
Since its first published photo in May, NASA's TESS (short for "Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite") has discovered more than 80 exoplanets in record time, including two Earth-like planets orbiting a nearby star. Now, TESS has spotted another exoplanet as well as half a dozen supernovae, or exploding stars.

The new exoplanet has been dubbed HD 21749b, and is classified as a sub-Neptune planet. It is several times larger than Earth and much, much more massive – HD 21749b is estimated to have 23 times more mass than Earth. Though "super-Earths" are often larger and more massive than our planet, HD 21749b is not thought to be rocky, meaning it's more like Neptune than Earth or Mars

Still, it's relatively cool (only about 300 degrees Fahrenheit!) and has a longer orbit around its star than other planets, with a full orbit clocking 36 days. (Compare that to other exoplanets discovered by TESS, which can take a few days or even hours to complete a circuit around their star.) According to Chelsea Huang of MIT, HD 21749b is only the latest planet spotted by TESS – there are 20-30 more exoplanets just waiting to be announced.

In addition to HD 21749b, TESS has picked up on six supernovae, which represent one of the final, cataclysmic stages of a star's lifespan. After exploding in a supernova, a star can turn into a neutron star or a black hole, two of the most strange and fascinating objects in the universe. The fact that TESS has spotted so many supernovae in such a short amount of time shows just how far space telescopes have come: according to Michael Fausnaugh, a scientist associated with TESS, "The only other mission that could really do this was the Kepler spacecraft and Kepler found five supernovae in four years of observation."

Stay tuned for more news from TESS!
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