NASA's exoplanet-hunting TESS space telescope moonlights in studying stars

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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In order to study planets, you have to look at stars, so you may as well analyze what you see.

NASA's exoplanet-hunting TESS space telescope moonlights in studying stars : Read more
"Other light curves represent pairs of stars that twirl around each other. If that dance happens at a convenient angle compared to TESS's orientation, making it an eclipsing binary, the spacecraft can measure the difference in total light as it sees first two stars, then one, then both again. That said, these dances look inconveniently similar to the TESS mission's other type of target, exoplanets. "There are so many eclipsing binaries, and I know this is particularly the bane of the other half of the TESS mission," Davenport said. "These things tend to show up as looking like really big planets, but they're amazing."

The study of binary star systems is very important in astronomy. Binary stars like Sirius A and B that are visual binaries, gravity and elliptical orbits and masses can be measured and checked with high accuracy, same for well documented eclipsing binary star systems. This is not the chief mission of TESS which is focused on exoplanets but I think it is good to find and document various binary star systems that TESS sees so others can follow up.
 

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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Another note. The report says "Astrophysicists are doing just that with the data gathered by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). That spacecraft has spent a year and a half staring at bright, nearby stars, looking for the blips in brightness that can reveal alien worlds. But these dips can also represent different types of stellar hiccups, which means that TESS data is also a treasure trove for scientists studying how stars work."

Bright, nearby stars are very interesting that are confirmed with exoplanets now. This site, The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia, shows a total of 4173 exoplanets confirmed as of 03-Feb-20. I did a MS SQL query for bright stars with apparent magnitudes +1.15 to +6.0. 155 exoplanets reported for duty and many are quite large. The average mass is nearly 12.8 Jupiters. The eccentricities are large too, ranging 0 to 0.76, distances 10 to 959 light-years from Earth. I am looking forward to more reports on exoplanets from TESS.
 
Feb 3, 2020
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You might want to mention that TESS has also discovered/observed objects in our own solar system that occasionally occlude another star.
 

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