TESS spots closest super-Earth that could be habitable

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission has been very busy lately. Back in April, the satellite discovered its first Earth-sized planet, in early July it found three more in one system, and just this week another system of two sub-Neptunes and an Earth-like turned up. Now, the productive little satellite has made another important discovery – the closest super-Earth that’s potentially habitable.

As astronomers stepped up the search for planets around other stars over the past decade, they noticed that our solar system is missing the most common type of planet – the so-called super-Earth. These planets are roughly defined as being up to 10 times more massive than our Earth, but are smaller than ice giants like Uranus and Neptune. And they could be perfect breeding grounds for extraterrestrial life.

And now, TESS has turned up the closest of these worlds that could be habitable. Known as GJ 357 d, the planet has at least six times the mass of Earth, and while its exact size and composition are still unknown, if it’s rocky it would measure between one and two times the size of Earth.