Skip to Content

NASA’s exoplanet hunter has spotted three new worlds in a nearby solar system

The TOI-270 system explained
The TOI-270 system explainedNASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center | Scott Wiessinger

They were found using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which launched in April 2018 to hunt for habitable worlds in the nearby universe.

The discovery: MIT researchers have found three new planets 73 light-years away in a system called TOI 270 (for TESS Object of Interest), using data from the satellite. They were discovered thanks to the periodic dips in starlight caused by each orbiting world. The three planets are in the southern constellation Pictor and have very rapid orbits around TOI 270, a dwarf star.

They are some of the smallest and closest exoplanets ever discovered, but it’s unlikely any of them are habitable, despite their relatively warm temperatures: their atmospheres are probably too thick and dense. They include a small, rocky planet that is slightly larger than Earth and two gaseous planets about twice Earth’s size. Their discovery was described in a paper in Nature Astronomy.

Check those results: TESS has already found 21 new planets and another 850 potential worlds awaiting confirmation, all located within a few dozen light-years of our own solar system, MIT’s George Ricker told the New York Times. It has “far exceeded our most optimistic hopes,” he said.

The implications: These planets could help us understand the “missing link” between how small, rocky plants like Earth and huge, icy worlds like Neptune are formed, according to Maximilian Günther, a postdoc at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, the lead author of the paper.

Want to stay up to date with space tech news? Sign up for our newsletter The Airlock.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build

“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”

Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives

The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.

Learning to code isn’t enough

Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.

Deep learning pioneer Geoffrey Hinton has quit Google

Hinton will be speaking at EmTech Digital on Wednesday.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.