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NASA's newest planet-hunting mission has reported detecting its first alien world — a "super-Earth" that is likely evaporating under the heat from its star, a new study finds.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched to Earth orbit on April 18 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The space telescope is analyzing several hundred thousand of the brightest stars in the sun's neighborhood, looking for tiny dips in brightness caused by the passage (or "transit") of orbiting planets as small as Earth across the faces of those stars.
Pi - Mensae - C - Class - Planets
Pi Mensae c is a super-Earth, a class of planets slightly larger and more massive than our own world.
The density of Pi Mensae c is consistent with a picture where "the entire planet is made of water," study lead author Chelsea Huang, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Space.com. However, "it is more likely to have a rocky core and an extended atmosphere made of hydrogen and helium," she said. "We also think this planet might be evaporating right now, given the intense irradiation...
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