NASA & # 39 ; s exoplanet-hunting TESS spacecraft has seen three comets that have passed years ago, according to a new role.
Comets in our own solar system are Sun-return objects to form a cloud and tail from variability of elements when they receive enough solar energy. Scientists have seen things like comets returning to other stars, but these three were first seen in data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission. The discovery shows the kinds of exciting discoveries that are likely to come from a relatively new mission launched in April 2018.
The first author of the study, student student Sebastian Zieba from the University of Innsbruck of Austria, is studying the TESS observations of Beta Pictoris, a prominent bright star in the southern sky. Scientists have discovered that this star is interesting-it has an exoplanet and a rich-carbon disk. But the data revealed a strange sinking, a sign that something was passing before the star and its brightness shines.
But Beta Pictoris can be a difficult star to study, explained Zayeba's advisor, Konstanze Zwintz. "The star itself threatens," she explains. The lights are flashing, and because there are different signal lights from the star, researchers need to fully understand it to get the dimming source. The same oscillating star and the dimming from the comet is incredibly weak.
"Looks like you're on a mountain, light a candle, and go to another mountain one kilometer away and watch the candle candle," says Zwintz. "Signals … are even smaller here."
After accounting for the star flicker and taking into account any potential noise that TESS could present itself, a signal like the capital V written on the script remained-a sharp down dimming, then a brighter. It looks exactly like a prediction made two decades ago about what exocomets should look like, Zwintz explained. Then, looking closer to the data, they found these two other signals, according to studies published in Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Other researchers think it's cool too. "This is a prediction made by twenty (20!) Years ago, that Beta Pictoris will have striking exocomets, so it's very enjoyable to see that in fact the case," Jessie Christiansen, astrophysicist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute in Caltech, Gizmodo said in an email. "And the data is really clean, which helps when making large claims like & # 39; exocomets! & # 39;"
Of course, this is an interpretation of a blip of data, and more data is needed to better understand what is happening. It is not clear how many they see is the cometary nucleus and how much is the tail of gas and dust, and what is the density of all these things. Hopefully researchers may one day find out what exocomets are being made of.
The task further demonstrates the power of the TESS mission and the many exciting things that can be found outside our solar system.