Nasa spacecraft spots gaseous planet 23 times the size of Earth

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It orbits a red dwarf star around 40 million light years away, and scientists think it holds giant oceans of magma.

While NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is the newest space-based planet hunter, this new finding shows that more discoveries await scientists in Kepler data.

The nearby exoplanet, HD 21749b, orbits a bright neighboring star in the Reticulum constellation, with a 36-day orbit and a surface temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

TESS's other discoveries include a super-hot world, LHS 3844 b, that whirls around its star-a red dwarf only 15% the size of the Sun-every 11 hours. The team, however, needed at least three transits to claim the discovery of a candidate planet and they did not find a third signal in the observations they reviewed. Why scientists are saying the new planet's surface is relatively cool is because its star is nearly as bright as our very own Sun, the team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston said.

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", Dr Dragomir said. It's a "sub-Neptune" about three times bigger than Earth, which means it's likely gaseous rather than rocky.

The new world, known as K2-288Bb, could be rocky or could be a gas-rich planet similar to Neptune.

Experts still aren't sure whether the planet hosts life, but say if plants were transferred there, they would likely survive.

The boffins have also detected evidence of a second planet, though not yet confirmed, in the same planetary system, with a shorter, 7.8-day orbit, according to the IANS report.

"It's a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon".

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Using the first three months of publicly available data from NASA's TESS mission, scientists at MIT and elsewhere have confirmed a new planet, HD 21749b - the third small planet that TESS has so far discovered.

Like NASA's recently departed Kepler space telescope, TESS watches for the faint dip in light that occurs when an unseen planet passes in front of a star's disk.

Kepler found a planet that orbits two stars, known as a binary star system, in 2011. The satellite will spend the first year surveying the sky in the Southern Hemisphere, before swiveling around to take in the Northern Hemisphere sky.

NASA has located a planet just outside of our solar system that may actually have water on it. This is relatively cool considering its proximity to its star. "We don't know how that could form".

Volunteers re-examined the observation data, which is when they came across the new planet. "But we re-extracted the data and zoomed in to look more carefully, and found what looked like the end of a transit".

"There was quite some detective work involved, and the right people were there at the right time", Dragomir says.

They also used data from the Planet Finder Spectrograph, an instrument installed on the Magellan Telescope in Chile, to further validate their findings and constrain the planet's mass and orbit.

So the reprocessed, "cleaned-up" light curves were uploaded through the Exoplanet Explorers project on online platform Zooniverse, and the public was invited to "go forth and find us planets", Feinstein said.

These exoplanets will be studied so that NASA can determine the best targets for future missions, like the James Webb Space Telescope. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.