An illustration of the 3 planets around a star known as GJ 357. Photo: NASA

NASA announced Wednesday that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has uncovered a potentially habitable planet just 31 light-years away from our solar system.

Why it matters: TESS member and associate professor of astronomy Lisa Kaltenegger, who led the international team and who is also director of Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute, said in a statement the discovery of the exoplanet, named GJ 357 d, "is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbor life."

The big picture: Astronomers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands and the University of La Laguna, Spain, published the findings on the GJ 357 system in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, and they were presented at an exoplanet conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Wednesday.

  • The astronomers detected via TESS another planet orbiting the same star, named GJ 357, and deeper research by Spanish astronomers led to the discovery of 2 more planets in the system — including the super-Earth, GJ 357 d, which takes almost 56 days to orbit its host star at a distance roughly one-fifth of that between Earth and the sun.
  • The other 2 known planets in the star system, GJ 357 b and GJ 357 c, are believed to be far too hot to be habitable, according to Kaltenegger.

What's next? Kaltenegger said a pair of next-generation telescopes in Chile should reveal more details once operating in 2025 about the super-Earth, including whether it is rocky or has oceans, per NBC News.

Go deeper: What scientists look for to tell if an exoplanet is habitable

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 12,051,561 — Total deaths: 549,735 — Total recoveries — 6,598,230Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 3,055,144 — Total deaths: 132,309 — Total recoveries: 953,420 — Total tested: 37,532,612Map.
  3. 2020: Houston mayor cancels Texas Republican convention.
  4. Public health: Deaths are rising in hotspots — Déjà vu sets in as testing issues rise and PPE dwindles.
  5. Travel: United warns employees it may furlough 45% of U.S. workforce How the pandemic changed mobility habits, by state.
  6. Education: New York City schools will not fully reopen in fallHarvard and MIT sue Trump administration over rule barring foreign students from online classes.

Coronavirus cases rise in 33 states

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed, Danielle Alberti/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic keeps getting worse, all across the country. Thirty-three states saw their caseloads increase this week, continuing a scary nationwide trend that’s been getting worse since mid-June.

Why it matters: The U.S. is right back in the situation we were afraid of earlier this year, with a rapidly spreading outbreak, strained hospitals, and projections of more than 200,000 deaths by the end of the year.

Transcripts show George Floyd told police "I can't breathe" over 20 times

Photo: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Newly released transcripts of bodycam footage from the Minneapolis Police Department show that George Floyd told officers he could not breathe more than 20 times in the moments leading up to his death.

Why it matters: Floyd's killing sparked a national wave of Black Lives Matter protests and an ongoing reckoning over systemic racism in the United States. The transcripts "offer one the most thorough and dramatic accounts" before Floyd's death, The New York Times writes.