NASA’s planet hunter satellite gets first hit in its search for another Earth

Relocating is complicated enough when you’re simply moving to a new city. Scientists at NASA have taken property searches up an infinite number of levels, however, as they search for another Earth.

NASA’s planet-hunting team turned up a potential relocation candidate on the first pass with a new satellite. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) uses four wide-field, 16.8MP cameras designed and built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory to capture detailed images of stars and other objects in space. The goal is to identify previously unknown exoplanets for further study.

TESS recently began a two-year mission to scan the southern and northern skies. During the mission, TESS will study an unprecedented 85 percent of the sky — an expanse 350 times greater than NASA’s earlier Kepler mission.

The satellite observes a sector of the sky for about 27 days before moving to the next sector. The trick is to watch for drops or dips in a star’s brightness in successive images. A dip may indicate something passing in front of the star — possibly an exoplanet or a super exoplanet.

An exoplanet is a planet with roughly the same density as Earth that orbits around a star other than our Sun’s solar system. A super-exoplanet is a larger exoplanet, or “super-Earth,” with greater, but not more than 10 times the Earth’s density. Density alone doesn’t determine habitability by humans. Discovering a new exoplanet is the first step for a more complete study.

NASA announced the discovery on Twitter: “The @NASA_TESS team is excited to announce the mission’s first candidate planet — a super-Earth around the bright star Pi Mensae, nearly 60 light-years away. The planet orbits every 6.3 days. The discovery is now being reviewed by other scientists to validate it. Stay tuned!”

At under 60 light-years distant, the new find is much closer to Earth than the Kepler Mission’s 2015 discovery of an exoplanet named Kepler-452b — that one was 1,400 light-years away.

The new exoplanet, called Pi Mensae c, is about 2.14 times Earth’s radius and 4.82 times Earth’s density, Gizmodo reports, citing a paper in preprint form filed by MIT’s C. X. Huang. Preliminary indications are that Pi Mensae c has an iron core and also contains water, methane, hydrogen, and helium.

As NASA and other groups continue to study Pi Mensae c, TESS continues its search for additional exoplanets.

Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Cars

Volkswagen’s next-generation lights will keep you safer, look good doing it

Volkswagen's new smart LED headlights, called IQ.Light, don't just light up the road in front of you to keep you, other drivers, and pedestrians safe. They also look dang good while doing it.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Smart Home

Is your smart home lighting too confusing? Intellect simplifies your controls

Leviton introduced Intellect, a new controls platform for smart home lighting. Intellect is the fifth brand to join Leviton's portfolio, alongside ConTech, Intense, Birchwood, and JCC.
Wearables

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Emerging Tech

When tech goes wrong: Banksy’s shredder was meant to totally destroy his artwork

Banksy's recent auction stunt was meant to totally destroy one of his most famous pieces of work, but a fault with the shredder has left the buyer with something almost certainly worth far more than the $1 million she bid for it.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.