Categories: TESS

TESS has Found 2,200 Potential Exoplanets so far

Exoplanetology has been on a tear recently.  This is largely due to an abundance of data collected by a new generation of satellites, one of which is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).  Now the project has reached a new milestone with another release of data – 2,200 planet candidates collected, far surpassing the 1,600 expected candidates in the mission’s first two years.  Now comes a potentially even more daunting task – following up with each of them.

That follow-up is where the real potential lies, according to Natalia Guerrero, the lead author on the paper releasing the latest findings.  The paper itself catalogues all the planets collected during the 2 year “primary mission” of TESS, from 2018 to 2020.  Now the satellite is on an extended mission, completing an “all-sky survey” over both the northern and southern hemispheres.

NASA Video showing some of the worlds TESS has discovered.
Credit: NASA / MIT / TESS

Even though it was only able to observe a relatively small patch of the northern hemisphere for a significant length of time, TESS was still able to find thousands of potential exoplanets.  There might even be more planets than the number TESS found hiding in that small patch of sky.  Planets with longer orbital periods, such as Neptune or Jupiter, might have been completely missed, as their half orbital period (which is when TESS would have been able to observe them) was longer than the 350+ days TESS spent on the most observed patch.  If the planets don’t happen to pass in front of the star in that period, their transit would not have been recorded.

Video discussing one of TESS’s more unique finds – a planet orbiting two stars.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Even with the limitations of the data it collected, TESS still found an amazing variety of planets, which are catalogued in a recent press release from NASA.  Ranging from Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of their stars to planets surrounding white dwarves, there are plenty of interesting places to look both for exobiologists and planetary scientists.

Globe showing what part of the sky TESS spent its viewing time on.
Credit: NASA / MIT / TESS

What might be even more interesting is the selection of where TESS spent most of its observing time.  It overlaps the observing window of the (hopefully) soon-to-be launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  JWST will be able to observe the atmosphere of some closer exoplanets directly, leading to even more insight into some of our closest exoplanet neighbors.

The process of finding exoplanets is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.  TESS still has more data to release from its extended mission, and even more space missions are on the horizon, with the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope planned to launch in about 4 years.  With luck, the 2200 candidates TESS found will just be a drop in the ocean of the total number of exoplanets located in the coming years.  There would be a lot more follow up work at least.

Learn More:
NASA – Space Telescope Delivers the Goods: 2,200 Possible Planets
arXiv – The TESS Objects of Interest Catalog from the TESS Prime Mission
EarthSky – TESS’s exoplanet catalog grows to over 2,200 worlds
Space.com – NASA’s TESS planet hunter spied 2,200 candidate worlds in its first 2 years

Lead Image:
Illustration depicting some of TESS’s planet candidates.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech




Andy Tomaswick

Recent Posts

SpaceX Reveals the Beefed-Up Dragon That Will De-Orbit the ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) has been continuously orbiting Earth for more than 25 years…

4 hours ago

Gaia Hit by a Micrometeoroid AND Caught in a Solar Storm

For over ten years, the ESA's Gaia Observatory has monitored the proper motion, luminosity, temperature,…

1 day ago

Lunar Infrastructure Could Be Protected By Autonomously Building A Rock Wall

Lunar exploration equipment at any future lunar base is in danger from debris blasted toward…

2 days ago

Why is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Shrinking? It’s Starving.

The largest storm in the Solar System is shrinking and planetary scientists think they have…

2 days ago

ESA is Building a Mission to Visit Asteroid Apophis, Joining it for its 2029 Earth Flyby

According to the ESA's Near-Earth Objects Coordination Center (NEOCC), 35,264 known asteroids regularly cross the…

2 days ago

The Most Dangerous Part of a Space Mission is Fire

Astronauts face multiple risks during space flight, such as microgravity and radiation exposure. Microgravity can…

2 days ago