NASA’s latest planet-hunting telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has discovered three new exoplanets orbiting the star TOI-270, just 73 light-years from the Sun. One of them is a rocky planet bigger than the Earth, while two others are gaseous bodies half the size of Neptune.
TESS Object of Interest (TOI) 270 is a faint, cool star more commonly identified by its catalogue name: UCAC4 191-004642.
The M-type dwarf star is about 40 per cent smaller than the Sun in both size and mass, and it has a surface temperature about one-third cooler than the Sun’s, NASA said in a release Monday.
“This system is exactly what TESS was designed to find — small, temperate planets that pass, or transit, in front of an inactive host star, one lacking excessive stellar activity, such as flares,” said lead researcher Maximilian Gunther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge.
“This star is quiet and very close to us, and therefore much brighter than the host stars of comparable systems. With extended follow-up observations, we’ll soon be able to determine the make-up of these worlds, establish if atmospheres are present and what gases they contain, and more,” he added.