The universe continues to surprise. Scientists using Nasa’s Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which was launched into space in 2018 and has been scanning the cosmos for stars and planets that could support alien life has made a new discovery making headlines immediately.
NASA has recently announced the discovered of three new exoplanets, and the alien worlds are types of planets unseen in our own solar system.
Part of the TOI-270 (TOI stands for TESS Object of Interest 270) star system, the enigmatic alien worlds are “missing link” planets that could provide massive clues for scientists hoping to find exoplanets that support life. TOI-270 is around 40% less massive than our sun and is up to a third cooler.
Located around 73, lightyears away, this star system is one of our closest neighbors.
One of the planets discovered orbiting around TOI-270 is believed to be a super-Earth, a planet a bit bigger than our world. The other two worlds are to gaseous planets slightly larger. And it is precisely that which makes them “missing links”, say experts.
The super-Earth planet, dubbed TOI-270 b isn’t probably can’t support alien life, thanks to its over-like temperatures caused due to the planet’s proximity to its star.
The other two planets, TOI 270 c, and TOI 270 d, the missing link planets are worlds that have been described as mini-Neptunes, a type of planet that does not exist in our own solar system, NASA experts explained.
All of the planets in the TOI-270 system are thought to be tidally locked to their host star, which means they only rotate once every orbit and maintain the same side facing the star at all times, just as the Moon does in its orbit around Earth.
“An interesting aspect of this system is that its planets straddle a well-established gap in known planetary sizes,” explained co-author Fran Pozuelos, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Liège in Belgium.
“It is uncommon for planets to have sizes between 1.5 and two times that of Earth for reasons likely related to the way planets form, but this is still a highly controversial topic. TOI 270 is an excellent laboratory for studying the margins of this gap and will help us better understand how planetary systems form and evolve.”
Studying the TOI-270 star system in the feature way help experts understand how the two mini-Neptunes were formed alongside an Earth-sized world.
Of the three recently found planets, experts hare particularly interested in the outermost planet, TOI 270 d. Early estimates suggest the planet’s equilibrium temperature is approximately 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees C). making it the most temperate world in the system — and as such, a rarity amongst known transiting planets.
“TOI 270 is perfectly situated in the sky for studying the atmospheres of its outer planets with NASA’s future James Webb Space Telescope,” explained co-author Adina Feinstein, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago.
“It will be observable by Webb for over half a year, which could allow for really interesting comparison studies between the atmospheres of TOI 270 c and d.”