New NASA orbital telescope discovers two planets

Technology

A planet-hunting orbital telescope designed to detect worlds beyond our solar system discovered two distant planets this week five months after its launch, officials said. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, made an early discovery of “super- Earth” and “hot Earth” planets in solar systems at least 49 light-years away, marking the satellite’s first discovery since its April launch.
TESS is on a two-year, $337 million mission to expand astronomers’ known catalogue of so-called exoplanets, worlds circling distant stars. While the two planets are too hot to support life, TESS deputy science director Sara Seager expects many more such discoveries. NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or “super-Earth” sized – no larger than twice as big as Earth.
Those are believed the most likely to feature rocky surfaces or oceans and are thus considered the best candidates for life to evolve. Scientists have said they hope TESS will ultimately help catalogue at least 100 more rocky exoplanets for further study. MIT researchers on Wednesday announced the discovery of Pi Mensae c, a “super-earth” planet 60 lightyears away orbiting its sun every 6.3 days.

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