NASA’s TESS spacecraft is proceeding to discover ever-littler planets – and that presently incorporates planets littler than the human homeworld. The vessel has discovered a planet in the L 98-59 system, L 98-59b, that is 80 percent the size of Earth – and 10 percent littler than TESS’ past most tiniest finding.
People won’t planning a vacation at any point in the near future, lamentably. The system is 34.6 light-years away, and the majority of the planets found up until now (there are bigger 59c and 59d planets) sit in the “Venus zone” where a runaway greenhouse gas effect could render them uninhabitable.
TESS detected the planets by utilizing transits (regular dips in the star’s splendor brought about by passing planets). People may get more data soon, in any event. TESS finishes its first year of studies in July, and that could be sufficient to both gather more insight regarding the known planets and potentially spot more.
This isn’t a record for NASA as a whole. Kepler-37b, for example, is scarcely bigger than the Moon. This demonstrates TESS can spot a wide scope of exoplanets, however, and raises trust that it’ll identify rocky worlds that warrant nearer study with the James Webb Space Telescope.
This isn’t just about the quest to discover extrasolar life, either. The information could help clarify why planets either become habitable or devolve into Venus-like hellscapes.