It’s called Asteria the Cubesat that is, among the satellites of such small size, managed to catch a glimpse of an exoplanet known. To give the news was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA explaining the importance of the event, which has exceeded the most optimistic expectations, to the point of be published in The Astronomical Journal.

To understand it, you need to take a step back: a large, more or less as a briefcase, Asteria is the hunter of planets smallest ever launched into space until today. On the contrary, his task was to prove that a satellite so small could lead to the end of the complex operations in the space, joining the ranks of ground-based telescopes and space to study planets beyond the solar System, such as TESS or Cheops.

Released into orbit in 2017 directly from the International Space Station, the small satellite of the family Cubesat was in low earth orbit until December 2019. Its primary objective was to demonstrate two key technologies to reduce the noise in the observations, photometric, or control of pointing a high-precision temperature control, high stability.

How do you explain the Media Inaf, the space-based observatories so small they are ideal for detection by the method of transit, because they are able to remain stable and to keep the star centered in your field of view, allowing scientists to measure without large margins of error, the passage of planet in front of the star, thanks to the absence of vibrations or movements.

Sure, you can say that Asteria has failed in its mission: not only tested the two technologies, but it is even able to identify 55 Cancers and. The rocky exoplanet, discovered in 2004, is the super-Earth closest to us among those known, has a radius that is about twice that of our planet, and a mass eight times greater.

Comparing the data of the small Cubesat with those collected in the past from other telescopes, it was possible to confirm the identity of the exoplanet, whose orbit is so close to its parent star, called 55 Cancers In one year (i.e. one complete revolution) only lasts 18 hours and the temperatures exceed 2000°C.