“The Kepler and K2 missions just keep on giving!” Harvard astrophysicist, David Latham told The Daily Galaxy. “Operations ended more than three years ago when the spacecraft ran out of fuel, but we continue to mine the data archives for celestial gems.”
“With its larger size and atmosphere,” exoplanetologist Diana Dragomir told The Daily Galaxy, “TOI-1231b promises to give us a glimpse into the rate of atmospheric evaporation caused by its M dwarf star, which we then hope to extrapolate from in order to learn more about atmospheric escape for terrestrial M dwarf planets, too.”
The future of the AI, artificial-intelligence, algorithm concept for finding planets hidden in data sets looks bright. The algorithm developed by the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with Google, can be used to probe the entire K2 data set of approximately 300,000 stars. The method is applicable to Kepler’s successor planet-hunting mission, TESS, which launched in April 2018.
“It’s amazing to think that the enigmatic intermediate-size exoplanets could be water worlds with vast amounts of water. Hopefully atmosphere observations in the future–of thick steam atmospheres—can support or refute the new findings,” said Professor Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and deputy science director of the recently-launched TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission, which will search for exoplanets.