NASA’s TESS Mission Discovers New Saturn-Sized Planet

NASA’s planet-hunting TESS mission just launched last April on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket, but it’s already making promising discoveries. According to asteroseismologists at Iowa State University, data collected by TESS have led to the discovery of a new Saturn-sized planet.

A team of asteroseismologists — astronomers who study seismic waves, also called “starquakes” — have found and characterized the first planet identified by TESS with a host star with measurable oscillations.

The planet is being called TOI 197.01 — TOI is short for “TESS Object of Interest” — and is described as a “hot Saturn” in a scientific paper written by a team of 141 astronomers, to be published in the Astronomical Journal. The planet is similar in size to Saturn and is very close to its star, completing an orbit in just 14 days, which creates a high surface temperature.

The team determined TOI-197.01 to be about 5 billion years old and a little heavier and larger than the sun. It is a gas planet with a radius about nine times that of Earth, making it about the same size as Saturn. It is also 1/13th the density and about 60 times the mass of Earth.

“TOI-197 provides a first glimpse at the strong potential of TESS to characterize exoplanets using asteroseismology,” the astronomers wrote in their paper.

“This is the first bucketful of water from the firehose of data we’re getting from TESS,” physics and astronomy professor Steve Kawaler said.

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SOURCE: CBS, by Sophie Lewis