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Opportunities from a Newly Discovered Planetary System

26 Aug 2020, 16:00 UTC
Opportunities from a Newly Discovered Planetary System
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Less than 250 light-years from Earth lie two newly found planets orbiting a star not unlike our own. A new study introduces these discoveries and explores what we may learn from future observations of their puffy atmospheres.
Identifying Ideal Targets
Artist’s illustration of NASA’s TESS mission observing a system of transiting exoplanets. [MIT]The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission was specifically designed to search for transiting planets smaller than 4 Earth radii around bright stars — and it’s already found more than 1,000 planet candidates, with 10,000 expected by mission end. These discoveries will help us to better understand the transition between rocky planets like Earth, which have compact atmospheres, and gaseous sub-Neptunes, which have extended, puffy atmospheres.
With the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), we’d especially like to identify TESS discoveries that make ideal candidates for transit spectroscopy with JWST. Transit spectroscopy allows us to study the atmospheres of nearby planets as they orbit across the face of their bright host star.
TESS light curves showing the phase-folded transits for TOI-421 b (top) and c (bottom). [Adapted from Carleo et al. 2020]In a new publication, a team of scientists led by Ilaria Carleo (Wesleyan University; ...

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