Blog about planets.

The first Earth-sized exoplanet identified thanks to the TESS space telescope

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” reports the discovery of two exoplanets in the orange star HD 21749’s system, one of which is the first Earth-sized identified thanks to NASA’s TESS space telescope and the other a Mini-Neptune. A team of researchers led by Diana Dragomir already submitted a first version of the article on the exoplanet HD 21749b, the Mini-Neptune also referred to as TOI 186.01, mentioning as candidate TOI 186.02 the rocky exoplanet now referred to as HD 21749c in the new version of the article in which it’s considered confirmed.

The Mars Rover Curiosity analyzed clay minerals in Aberlady on Mars

NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity drilled a clay area, called a clay-bearing unit by the mission scientists, of ​​Mount Sharp on Mars that was nicknamed Aberlady to take samples for analysis. The rock turned out to be quite friable so only the normal rotation of the drill was used, without the percussion system used on other occasions to drill much harder rocks. Clay is associated with water so the hope is that the results of the analysis will help to reconstruct the history of Mars with new information on the remote era in which there was a lake in the area.

The Trace Gas Orbiter space probe detected water but not methane on Mars

Two articles published in the journal “Nature” report the main results of the first year of work of ESA and Roscosmos’ Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), part of the ExoMars program. One article concerns the impact of the global storm that covered the planet Mars with a dust on the water in the atmosphere, while the other article reports the lack of methane detections, at least for now frustrating the hopes of discovering its origin. A third article submitted to the journal “Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Science” offers the most detailed map created so far of water ice and hydrated minerals present immediately below the red planet’s surface.

Artist's concept of a planetesimal orbiting the white dwarf SDSS J122859.93+104032.9 (Image courtesy University of Warwick/Mark Garlick)

An article published in the journal “Science” reports the discovery of what’s probably a fragment of a planet that orbits a white dwarf. A team of researchers led by the British University of Warwick used the Gran Telescopio Canarias of La Palma to study the debris disk that surrounds the white dwarf cataloged as SDSS J122859.93+104032.9 detecting anomalies in the emission lines that have been interpreted as the result of the presence of what has been called a planetesimal orbiting the star in about two hours.

An independent confirmation of a methane peak on Mars

An article published in the journal “Nature Geoscience” reports an independent confirmation of the detection of a methane peak on the planet Mars, east of Gale Crater, where NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity is operating and detected the presence of methane. However, a team of researchers led by Marco Giuranna of the Italian National Astrophysics Institute in Rome used measurements of ESA’s Mars Express space probe’s PFS instrument to find methane. Independent detections carried out in orbit and on the ground with very different instruments are crucial in this research because methane can be produced by biological processes but also by geological processes.