NASA’s TESS Finds Unique Planet That Orbits Two Stars


NASA TESS has found a unique planet. The researchers working with the data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS found a planet that orbits two stars. Initially, it was believed to be a pair of eclipsing binary stars without a planet. On detailed examination, an intern found it was misidentified.

NASA’s TESS Finds Unique Planet That Orbits Two Stars


NASA TESS Finds Another Planet

The team of Zooniverse citizen scientists working with the Planet Hunters TESS program recognized the variations in the star brightness with the TESS data. The intern, Wolf Cukier, on closer examination found that it was indeed a circumbinary planet, which is one that orbits two stars.

"About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first, I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet," he said in a statement. The discovery marks the first circumbinary planet discover for TESS. So far, there are more than 20 other confirmed circumbinary planets and a couple of unconfirmed ones.

The unique planet is called TOI 1338 B and is roughly 6.9 times larger than the Earth. It can be placed between the size of Neptune and Saturn for further comparison. Speaking of the star duo, one of them is 10 percent larger than the Sun. The second is cooler and dimmer and is sized about one-third of the Sun's mass.

NASA’s TESS Finds Unique Planet That Orbits Two Stars


Interesting Findings

The TOI 1338 B planet is in almost perfect alignment with the stars. Hence, it experiences solar eclipses every 15 days. Moreover, both the stars in the system are orbiting, which is quite challenging for TESS to detect. Here, the smaller star passes in front of the larger one that creates a similar drop in starlight as the transit of the planet.

NASA's TESS works by detecting planets passing between the Earth and the planet's stars, which is called a transit. The sensitive cameras aboard TESS are capable of detecting tiny drops in the light from the star. Presently, the exoplanet-hunting satellite is on a two-year mission. It studies the same section of the sky for 27 days at a time intending to find Earth-like planets around nearby stars for easier observations.

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