NASA's TESS Discovers A Nearby Super-Earth That Can Harbor Life

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The transits TESS observed belong to GJ 357 b, a planet about 22% larger than Earth.

The system GJ 357 is located in the constellation Hydra.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a mission created to comb the heavens for exoplanets, has discovered its first potentially habitable world outside the solar system, according to a NASA release on Wednesday. It's incredibly close to its star, completing an orbit every three-and-a-half Earth days, but because TOI 207 isn't as intense as our own Sun, the planet isn't quite as hot as you might expect.

The trick, the scientists said, would be to try to catch a glimpse of GJ 357 d, if it can be seen transiting its star from our vantage point.

According to Jack Madden, doctoral candidate at Cornell and co-author of the study, mere knowledge of liquid water possibly existing on the surface of the planet, "motivates scientists to find ways of detecting signs of life". The planet, called GJ 357 d, is significantly larger than Earth, but may have what it takes to support liquid water on its surface, dramatically increasing its potential to foster life.

Current estimates suggest the planet weighs at least 6.1 times Earth's mass, and orbits the star every 55.7 days at approximately 20 percent of Earth's distance from the Sun. This alternative method looks for tiny changes in light caused when a star "wobbles" in response to the gravity of orbiting planets.

"We describe GJ 357 b as a 'hot Earth",' said Enric Palle, an astrophysicist at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands.

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"We do not know but if planets" atmospheres are in a position to survive the high-radiation setting of an M dwarf when it is actually younger, so that is going to be a tremendous alternative to check that, ' Dr Winters instructed Reside Science. The discovery, published in Nature Astronomy, also has researchers curious about a type of "missing link" planet that we don't have in our own solar system.

"We've discovered only a few planets like this within the habitable zone, and plenty of fewer around a quiet star, so that is uncommon", mentioned Stephen Kane, a UC Riverside associate professor of planetary astrophysics, in a separate statement.

But the latest discovery may be the most surprising of all - an alien planet that is potentially capable of supporting life.

With the first year in the books, the planet-hunting satellite is now turning its attention to the northern sky.

"The team hopes further research may reveal additional planets beyond the three now known", the space agency writes.

'TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds whose properties can be probed by NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and other missions'.

Tess is 5 toes (1.5 meters) vast and is shorter than most adults.