Astronomers working with data from the TESS exoplanetary telescope have created a unique catalog of stars that will help locate potentially habitable planets in their orbits.
A team from Cornell University, Lehigh University and Vanderbilt University have identified the most promising targets for finding stars that might orbit habitable planets. They added 1,822 stars to their new catalog, around which the TESS sensitivity is sufficient to detect Earth-like exoplanets slightly larger than our planet, which receive the same amount of radiation from their stars as the Earth does from the Sun. The catalog is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The 1,822 stars included in the catalog are bright, cold dwarfs whose temperatures range from about 2,700 to 5,000 Kelvin (2,427 to 4,727 degrees Celsius). They were selected for brightness. The closest of these stars is about six light-years from Earth.
“Life may not exist in all possible worlds, but we know that our own world can support life, so finding Earth-like planets definitely makes sense,” says Professor Lisa Kaltenegger, a member of the TESS research team. - This catalog is important for TESS, because everyone working with data wants to know around which stars we can find the closest analogues of the Earth. We have 408 new favorite stars. Surprisingly, you don't have to choose just one; now I can explore hundreds of stars."
Confirming the sighting of an exoplanet and calculating the distance from it to the star requires registering two transits. This is exactly what the TESS telescope can do during its mission. Such orbital periods mean that these planets are in the habitable zone of their stars.
The catalog also includes a subset of 227 stars, in whose orbits TESS can not only find planets receiving the same amount of radiation as Earth, but also find out how wide their habitable zones are - down to colder orbits.
This will allow astronomers to study a variety of potentially habitable worlds orbiting hundreds of cool stars during the TESS mission.
“We don't know how many planets TESS will find in the orbits of hundreds of stars from our catalog and whether they will be habitable, but the odds are in our favor,” says Professor Kaltenegger. - Some studies indicate that there may be many rocky planets in the habitable zones of cool stars. We are very excited about which worlds we will find."
“This is an amazing time in human history and a huge leap forward in our understanding of our own place in the universe,” said Dr. Kevan Stassun of Vanderbilt University and also a member of the TESS research team.