Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
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Citizen scientists discover rare exoplanet

Citizen scientists discover rare exoplanet

The exoplanet, known as K2-288Bb, is about twice the size of Earth and orbits within the habitable zone of its star, meaning liquid water may exist on its surface.

According to NASA, the planet is half the size of Neptune and could be gas-rich, though it's possible that it's rocky instead.

NASA astrophysicist Geert Barents said the Sun affected the craft which hampered the first days of its mission - possibly dampening its ability to locate new planets.

Calling the planet small is a bit misleading, the team says that HD 21749b is about three times the size of Earth placing it into the sub-Neptune category.

Its size - roughly that of Neptune - is rare among exoplanets, which are found beyond our solar system.

Huang reported the findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington. That is, it looks for tiny dips in starlight caused when planets cross their host stars' faces from the satellite's perspective. Kepler observed other events that could be mistaken for planet transits by a computer.

They were examining data from the fourth observing campaign of Kepler's K2 mission when they noticed two likely planetary transits in the system. Because TESS stares non-stop at one slice of the sky for 27 days, then moves to a neighbouring slice, it captures an unprecedented view of these exploding stars as they brighten and then dim.

The mission has released to the public all the data TESS has collected so far from the first three of the 13 sectors that it will monitor in the southern sky.

But the scientists couldn't do it alone.

TESS is considered to be a "bridge to the future", finding exoplanet candidates to study in more detail.

The discoveries of a new planet and several supernovae are exciting enough and what's to come should give us even more information about the phenomena already discovered.

This new and improved Earth is situated in the stellar called K2-288, made up of a pair of dim stars, about 5.1 billion miles apart, which is approximately six times the distance between Saturn and the Sun - if that means anything to you.

Feinstein and Makennah Bristow, an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina Asheville, worked as interns at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, searching the data for transits.

However, they needed to see a third transit before they could say they had discovered a planet for definite, but they didn't have one.

But the citizen scientists found the third transit hiding in those first few days of data that had been all but forgotten.

Feinstein said: "That's how we missed it - and it took the keen eyes of citizen scientists to make this extremely valuable find and point us to it".

Scientists are already working on followup observations for more than 280 planet candidates that TESS has found.

NASA expects TESS to allow for the cataloging of more than 1,500 exoplanets, but it has the potential to find thousands.

NASA's newest planet-hunting probe has bagged another alien world, the eighth confirmed find for the young mission.

If it is confirmed as a planet, it could be the first Earth-sized planet discovered by Tess.

"We think this planet wouldn't be as gaseous as Neptune or Uranus, which are mostly hydrogen and really puffy", discovery team leader Diana Dragomir, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said in a statement.

"This is only the ninth system discovered containing six or more planets", he said.

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