Citizen Scientists Discover Giant Gaseous Jupiter-Sized Planet In NASA TESS Data



A former U.S. Naval officer, Tom Jacobs, who has been participating in NASA online volunteer projects since 2010, has discovered a giant gaseous exoplanet nearly 379 light-years from Earth in the agency’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) data. While the TESS results help NASA officials locate new planets in space by observing the change in brightness of nearby stars, Jacobs, a citizen scientist, spotted a gaseous Jupiter-sized planet hidden in the data during a recent study.

The new finding was recently published in the Astronomical Journal and presented at an American Astronomical Society virtual press event as well. “Discovering and publishing TOI-2180 b was a great group effort demonstrating that professional astronomers and seasoned citizen scientists can successfully work together. It is synergy at its best,” Jacobs said at the event. “We love contributing to science and I love this type of surveying, knowing that one is in new undiscovered territory not seen by any humans before,” he added.

While the team reported the interesting light curve to the project lead, Paul Dalba and Diana Dragomir, a co-author on the study, the team observed the planet for nearly 27 hours over more than 500 days before organising a campaign in August 2021. While none of the 14 sites across three continents could detect the planet, the team expects it to appear in February 2022 TESS report once again.

“With this new discovery, we are also pushing the limits of the kinds of planets we can extract from TESS observations. TESS was not specifically designed to find such long-orbit exoplanets, but our team, with the help of citizen scientists, are digging out these rare gems nonetheless,” Dragomir said.

Dalba, an astronomer at the University of California, Riverside, and study lead was all praise for her team’s effort. “The manual effort that they put in is really important and really impressive, because it’s actually hard to write code that can go through a million light curves and identify single transit events reliably,” she added.

According to the NASA report, TOI-2180 b is reported to be bigger than Jupiter, NASA could soon observe this newly-discovered planet and its atmosphere with the help of James Webb Space Telescope (which launched on December 25).

SEE ALSO: Colossal Webb Telescope Completes A Phenomenal Feat In Space

Cover Image: Shutterstock


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