Studying this planet could help astronomers understand more about how planets grow, as it is a "pre-teen" in planetary terms. The star's consistent brightness should make it easier to figure out the mass, atmospheric composition and other key characteristics of the planets in the system, study team members said. However, the other mini-Neptune, called TOI-270-d appears to lie in the habitable zone, where temperatures might be sufficient to host liquid water and possibly life.
The innermost planet, TOI-270b, is the super-Earth.
The satellite recently completed its first year on the job, during which it discovered more than 20 planets outside Earth's solar system. Temperatures given for TOI 270's planets are equilibrium temperatures, calculated without the warming effects of any possible atmospheres. Furthermore, the researchers note that there could be yet more worlds orbiting TOI-270 that have yet to be discovered, and that one could potentially exist in the star's habitable zone.
'That's a very interesting thing, because it lets us study their dynamical behaviour'.
They are all likely too close to the star and, therefore, are too warm to be capable of hosting alien life. The star and its planet could provide valuable information on how planetary bodies form.
'And you can nearly expect, if there are more planets, the next one would be somewhere further out, at another integer ratio'.
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"In addition to finding a diverse set of exoplanets, TESS has discovered a treasure trove of astrophysical phenomena, including thousands of violently variable stellar objects".
TESS found TOI 270's intriguing planets by looking for a dimming of the host star that indicates a planet passing around it. Because the stars in question are red dwarfs that are located reasonably close to Earth, and because the system is arranged so that the planet passes between the stars and Earth, scientists may actually be able to get a glimpse of any gases surrounding the planet using telescopes based on Earth.
'It is an exceptional laboratory for not one, but many reasons - it really ticks all the boxes'. The team now wants to focus other instruments, especially the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope on the star and its solar system to see if there are indeed other planets and to assess their physical parameters. The study has been submitted to the Astronomical Journal and is available on arXiv.
Artist's impression of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Its four wide-field cameras will view the sky in 26 segments, each of which it will observe one by one.