The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s orbital telescope discovered two distant planets this week, five months after its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Reuters reported on Friday.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS made an early discovery of “super-Earth” and “hot Earth” planets in solar systems at least 49 light-years away. This is the satellite’s first discovery since its launch in April.
The telescope, launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is designed to find thousands of new exoplanets – planets circling nearby stars – including those that could support life over a two-year mission costing the space agency $337 million (Rs 2,440 crore).
TESS Deputy Science Director Sara Seager said the two planets are too hot to support life, but expects more such discoveries from the telescope. “We will have to wait and see what else TESS discovers,” Seager said. “We do know that planets are out there, littering the night sky, just waiting to be found.”
Scientists have announced the discovery of Pi Mensae c, a “super-earth” planet 60 light-years away orbiting its sun every 6.3 days and LHS 3844 b, a “hot-earth” planet 49 light-years away that orbits its sun every 11 hours.
TESS is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered around 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.