NASA’s planet-hunting satellite TESS, or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, has achieved an impressive milestone by identifying 5,000 potential exoplanets. Launched in 2018, the hard-working telescope has been used by researchers from various institutions to find telltale indications of planets outside our solar system.
Many objects identified by TESS are called potential exoplanets, or TESS Objects of Interest (TOI), because it requires multiple observations to confirm that a given signal is in fact an exoplanet. Currently, out of more than 5,000 candidates discovered, 176 have been confirmed as exoplanets.
The recent batch of planetary candidates that pushed TESS above the 5,000 mark were found as part of the Faint Star Search, led by MIT’s Michelle Kunimoto. “By this time last year, TESS had found just over 2,400 TOIs,” Kunimoto said in a declaration. “Today, TESS has reached more than double that number – a huge testament to the mission and all the teams digging through data for new planets. I look forward to seeing thousands more in the years to come ! “
TESS has helped discover a remarkable variety of exoplanets, ranging from potentially habitable worlds to a planet where there shouldn’t be any, to planets close to our solar system to a tiny hellish planet where a year lasts eight hours.
TESS’ original mission ran from 2018 to 2020, but it was so successful that it also had an extended mission from 2020 to 2022, so there’s still time for it to discover even more intriguing planets. “With data from the first year of the extended mission, we have found dozens of additional TOI candidates found during the main mission,” said Katharine Hesse, TOI manager. “I’m excited to see how many multiplanetary systems we can find over the remainder of the extended mission and in the years to come with TESS.”
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