Skip to Content
Space

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

The TOI-270 system explained
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.

Deep Dive

Space

supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way
supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way

This is the first image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy

The stunning image was made possible by linking eight existing radio observatories across the globe.

Mapping the atmosphere on Mars can help advance science on our own planet

The Emirates Mars Mission is monitoring and measuring the climate and atmosphere of the red planet, but this effort also helps promote and advance science at a national level.

SpaceX Starship
SpaceX Starship

How SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket might unlock the solar system—and beyond

With the first orbital test launch of Starship on the horizon, scientists are dreaming about what it might make possible— from trips to Neptune to planetary defense.

Photograph, Seine et Marne on march the 6th 2021 at night. Taurus constellation. On this image we can see the effect of the movements of artificial satellites through the sky. On the left we can see the planet Mars, on the right the famous stars cluster the Pleiades (M45). From the bottom right the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1269, and from the top the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1577
Photograph, Seine et Marne on march the 6th 2021 at night. Taurus constellation. On this image we can see the effect of the movements of artificial satellites through the sky. On the left we can see the planet Mars, on the right the famous stars cluster the Pleiades (M45). From the bottom right the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1269, and from the top the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1577

SpaceX just lost 40 satellites to a geomagnetic storm. There could be worse to come.

Increasing solar activity could play havoc with mega-constellations like Starlink in the coming years.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration 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 customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.