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NASA’s TESS Mission Finds Its Smallest Planet Yet

15 Jul 2019, 15:52 UTC
NASA’s TESS Mission Finds Its Smallest Planet Yet
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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a world between the sizes of Mars and Earth orbiting a bright, cool, nearby star. The planet, called L 98-59b, marks the tiniest discovered by TESS to date. Two other worlds orbit the same star. While all three planets’ sizes are known, further study with other telescopes will be needed to determine if they have atmospheres and, if so, which gases are present. The L 98-59 worlds nearly double the number of small exoplanets — that is, planets beyond our solar system — that have the best potential for this kind of follow-up. “The discovery is a great engineering and scientific accomplishment for TESS,” said Veselin Kostov, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. “For atmospheric studies of small planets, you need short orbits around bright stars, but such planets are difficult to detect. This system has the potential for fascinating future studies.” A paper on the findings, led by Kostov, was published in the June 27 issue of The Astronomical Journal. L 98-59b is around 80% Earth’s size and about 10% smaller than the previous record holder discovered by ...

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