NASA launches alien planet-hunting satellite – and it’s the size of a cereal box

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A satellite the same size as a "family-sized Cheerios' box" has been launched into space in a new project that will examine "hot Jupiter exoplanets".

The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) will spend seven months searching for extreme worlds as part of a study into the planets which can be found outside of the Solar System.

It comes around the same time as NASA’s Landsat 9 satellite which was originally meant to launch months ago but suffered from a delay due to a shortage of liquid nitrogen.

Both satellites launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Lompoc, California, shortly before 2.15 pm on a rocket on Monday afternoon.

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The Landsat 9 satellite is NASA's most powerful Earth observation satellite launched to date and carries on the agencies 50-year legacy, reports the Daily Mail.

Operated by NASA and the US Geological Survey, the satellite will continue to document changes on the planet that have been caused by both human activity and natural causes.

"We've assembled an amazing history of how the planet has changed over the last half century," Dr Jeff Masek, NASA's Landsat-9 project scientist, told BBC News.

"For example, we're able to see the natural disturbances that occur, (such as) fires, hurricanes, and insect outbreaks.

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"And then the long-term recovery of ecosystems that takes place for decades after that."

It has been reported that the latest edition will study climate change impacts on ecosystems that could help steer policy and conservation efforts.

During this time, the CubeSat "Cherios box" will hopefully find out how much science can be done with a small satellite, while it observes the exoplanets.

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"Ultimately CUTE has one major purpose, and that is to study the inflated atmospheres of these really hot, pretty gassy exoplanets," commented graduate student Arika Egan, who helped develop the mission.

"The inflation and escape these exoplanetary atmospheres undergo are on scales just not seen in our own solar system."

Principal investigator, Kevin France said it is "exciting but a little daunting."

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"Because these planets are parked so close to their parent stars, they receive a tremendous amount of radiation," he added.

"The more places we understand atmospheric escape, the better we understand atmospheric escape as a whole."

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