90 Miles From Tyranny : NASA's $200M space telescope finds alien planet almost the size of Earth, smallest discovered

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Monday, July 1, 2019

NASA's $200M space telescope finds alien planet almost the size of Earth, smallest discovered

The three planets discovered in the L98-59 system by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) are compared to Mars and Earth in order of increasing size in this illustration. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
NASA said its new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite space telescope has discovered its smallest exoplanet so far, an alien world that's roughly 80 percent the size of Earth and could help "unlock" secrets of how the Blue Planet became habitable.

Known as L 98-59b, the new exoplanet is in the star system L 98-59, 35 light years away from our solar system. Two other worlds were also discovered orbiting the L 98-59 star by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short, nearly doubling the number of small exoplanets discovered so far.

“The discovery is a great engineering and scientific accomplishment for TESS,” said Veselin Kostov, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the study's lead author, in a statement. “For atmospheric studies of small planets, you need short orbits around bright stars, but such planets are difficult to detect. This system has the potential for fascinating future studies.”

The discovery of L 98-59b and the two other planets was published in The Astronomical Journal.

The other two exoplanets, known as L 98-59c and L 98-59d, are approximately 1.4 and 1.6 times the size of Earth, respectively. All three were discovered when TESS spotted their shadows passing by the star, which caused "periodic dips in the star’s brightness."

The smallest exoplanet ever discovered is Kepler-37b, which is approximately one-fifth the size of the...

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