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(CBS Local) — An orbital telescope designed to hunt for worlds beyond our solar system has discovered two distant planets, officials said this week.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, spotted “super-Earth” and “hot Earth” planets in solar systems at least 49 light-years away, marking the satellite’s first discovery since its April launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
While astronomers say the two planets are too hot to support life, TESS is expected to make many more such discoveries.
MIT researchers announced Wednesday the discovery of Pi Mensae c, a “super-earth” planet 60 light-years away orbiting its sun every 6.3 days.
The discovery of LHS 3844 b, a “hot-earth” planet 49 light-years away that orbits its sun every 11 hours, was announced on Thursday.
The two newest planets, which still need to be reviewed by other researchers, offer the chance for follow-up study, officials said.
TESS is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets, worlds circling distant stars. TESS is expected to find more than 20,000 exoplanets during its two-year, $337 million mission.
TESS uses four special cameras and a detection method called transit photometry to look for periodic dips when a planet passes in front of its star as viewed from the satellite’s perspective.