Scientists have just revealed they have found hundreds of stars that may have planets in orbit



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Before 1995, the year the first exoplanet was discovered, we only knew that there were planets in our solar system. Almost two decades later and 4,000 exoplanets were discovered. There are almost 3,000 more possible candidates. NASA estimates since the first exoplanet discovery that the number of known exoplanets has doubled every 27 months since then.

As the number of exoplanets increases, it brings scientists closer to understanding if there is another Earth-like planet in our universe, and if it exists, it can host life. This is part of the mission of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, commonly known as TESS. Last week, a team of astronomers from Cornell, Lehigh University and Vanderbilt University published an article in the Astrophysical Journal Letters identifying a detailed catalog called "TESS Habitable Zone Star Catalog" of 1,822 potential stars where Earth-like planets could exist and TESS could detect.

Padi Boyd, a TESS project scientist at NASA, tells Salon that this catalog is important because he synthesized the data to the point where it could be sifted by scientists. This allows them to look for signals in a way that computer automation can not.

"What makes this catalog a bit different is to look at all the stars that TESS can see and look for a subset of those stars around which the TESS teletransports, the instruments themselves, would be able to detect transit of a small planet . , one or two small transits and this planet would be in the habitable zone of its star, "said Boyd. "We are taking the catalog we already have and selecting down what some people would consider to be the most interesting stars around which to look for planets."

These are the planets that would be in a habitable zone of these stars. A habitable zone means that an exoplanet is a sufficient distance from the star of your solar system, like our sun, where water could exist on the surface of a planet. The way TESS observes the sky is to observe the stars only in the next hundred light-years, allowing it to gather more critical information to make observations later. Now, with the new catalog, the researchers have a better idea of ​​where TESS should be looking. For those who are interested in knowing if there is life in other parts of the universe, this is another step in finding an answer.

"Life can exist in all kinds of worlds, but the type we know can sustain life, so it makes sense to look first for planets like Earth," said lead author Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomy professor at the College of Arts. and Sciences and director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell in a statement. "This catalog is important to TESS, because whoever works with the data wants to know around which stars we can find the closest analogues of Earth."

The catalog also identified 408 stars that may be orbited by Earth-sized planets and may receive similar amounts of radiation that the Earth receives from the sun.

"I have 408 new favorite stars," Kaltenegger said. "It's incredible that I do not have to choose just one, now I'm looking for hundreds of stars."

The next step is for the TESS to start working observing these stars.

"We do not know how many planets TESS will find around the hundreds of stars in our catalog or whether they will be habitable," Kaltenegger said. "But the odds are in our favor. Some studies indicate that there are many rocky planets in the habitable zone of cold stars, like those in our catalog."

All of these observations will serve to better inform mission targets such as the James Webb Space Telescope, which can further characterize the atmospheres of the exoplanets that are currently scheduled to be launched in early 2021.

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