NASA has discovered thousands of new planets to date – and there are plenty more where they came from.
According to scientists, the agency's exoplanet-hunting spacecraft TESS will uncover upwards of 12,000 exoplanets by 2024.
Launched four years ago, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a space telescope designed to hunt for undiscovered worlds.
It's searching an area of sky 400 times larger than that covered by the Kepler mission in a bid to find candidates that could host alien life.
So far, TESS has found nearly 5,000 worlds of all shapes and sizes, including gas giants, Neptune-like ice worlds and so-called Super-Earths.
A Super-Earth has a mass higher than our planet's below those of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune.
A paper published online last month predicted the number of exoplanets that TESS will find over the course of its seven-year mission.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made their calculations using data collected by the $287million spacecraft to date.
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According to the team, new exoplanets will be discovered in readings already made by TESS as well as those it's yet to make.
They predicted that the probe will discover many thousands more worlds across its three scheduled missions.
In total, the researchers expect the discovery of 4,719 exoplanets from TESS's prime mission, which ran from 2018 to 2020.
A further 3,707 and 4,093 worlds will emerge from its first and second extended missions that will run from 2022 to 2024.
That’s a staggering total of 12,519 exoplanets, including dozens of Earth-like worlds that may or may not host alien microbes.
The research was published in the pre-print journal Arxiv and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Exoplanets are planets outside of our Solar System. Thousands have been discovered since the 1980s.
As well as being potential locations of extraterrestrial life, they provide opportunities to better understand the evolution of the universe.
According Nasa's exoplanet database, of the ten exoplanets found this year, six are larger than Jupiter.
They include HD 69123 b, which is three times the size of the gas giant and sits 245 light-years from Earth.
It orbits a K-type star, according to Nasa, and takes over three years to complete each trip around its host.
A number of smaller exoplanets have also been unearthed by astronomers.
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