NASA’s New Planet-Hunting Telescope Spots Its Second Possible World Already

An artist’s depiction of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite at work spotting exoplanets. Credit: NASA
Scientists poring over data from NASA’s newest planet-hunting telescope have announced that they’ve spotted a second possible planet, just three days after many of the same team members announced their first find.

By Meghan Bartels |

The two potential planets are the beginning of a discovery bonanza that scientists have calculated may hit 10,000 worlds within just two years. Both come from the first month of observation time from the instrument — called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) — which changes position each month to better survey the sky.

„A second @NASA_TESS candidate planet has been discovered!“ scientists with the mission announced on Twitter Thursday (Sept. 20). Slightly bigger than Earth, this planet orbits LHS 3844, a M dwarf star 49 light-years away, every 11 hours. This find is being reviewed by other scientists, and we’re looking forward to studying this cool „hot Earth.“ [NASA’s TESS Exoplanet-Hunting Mission in Pictures]

TESS works by staring at a field of stars to monitor their brightness. If those stars host planets that line up in just the right way to slip between the telescope and a star, the instrument registers a slight dip in brightness as the planet blocks the star. By watching several of those events, called transits, scientists can calculate the size of the planet and the length of its year.