TESS, Spitzer Missions Discover a Unique Young World

  • Released Wednesday, June 24, 2020
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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope have found a young Neptune-size world orbiting AU Microscopii, a cool, nearby M-type red dwarf star surrounded by a vast disk of debris. The discovery makes the system a touchstone for understanding how stars and planets form and evolve.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Watch this video on the NASA Goddard YouTube channel.

Music: "Web Of Intrigue" from Universal Production Music.

Complete transcript available.

For more than a decade, astronomers have searched for planets orbiting AU Microscopii, a nearby star still surrounded by a disk of debris left over from its formation. Now scientists using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope report the discovery of a planet about as large as Neptune that circles the young star in just over a week.

The system, known as AU Mic for short, provides a one-of-kind laboratory for studying how planets and their atmospheres form, evolve and interact with their stars.

AU Mic is a M-type red dwarf star at least 150 times younger than our Sun. It’s so young that a vast disk of dust and icy grains still surrounds it.

The planet, AU Mic b, orbits very close to its star within a central zone where the disk material is cleared away. It's around 8% larger than Neptune, with no more than about 3.4 times its mass.

Dos telescopios espaciales de la NASA, el Satélite de Sondeo de Exoplanetas en Tránsito (TESS, por sus siglas en inglés) y el recientemente retirado Telescopio Espacial Spitzer, han encontrado un mundo joven del tamaño de Neptuno que orbita AU Microscopii, una estrella enana fría cercana de tipo espectral M que está rodeada por un vasto disco de escombros. El descubrimiento hace del sistema un referente para nuestra comprensión de cómo se forman y evolucionan las estrellas y los planetas.

Crédito: Centro de Vuelo Espacial Goddard de la NASA.

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Release date

This page was originally published on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:44 PM EDT.


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