TESS Satellite Discovered Its 1st World Orbiting 2 Stars


[music throughout] Narrator: NASA’s TESS mission just discovered its first circumbinary planet—a world orbiting two stars instead of one. Named TOI 1338 b, it’s nearly the size of Saturn and orbits its stars every 95 days. The two stars orbit each other and consist of a small, cool M dwarf and one much like the Sun. Together, they form what is called an eclipsing binary, which means the stars regularly pass in front of each other form our point of view. TESS hunts for planets in these and other systems by looking for tiny, regular dips in starlight called transits. TESS saw TOI 1338 b’s transits of the large star, but spotting them in the data wasn’t easy. A high school intern examined hundreds of eclipsing binaries to search for planetary transits, which can look similar to some of the eclipses. Ultimately, he uncovered transits caused by the planet. If you could orbit TOI 1338 b, you’d have a front-row seat to see its suns eclipse each other every 15 days. But the angle of the planet’s orbit around the stars changes over time. After 2023, we won’t see it pass in front of the stars for another 8 years. TESS will observe hundreds of thousands of eclipsing binaries, so there may be other planets similar to TOI 1338 b waiting to be discovered.
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