NASA Is About To Launch Its Next Planet-Hunting Telescope

Posted: Apr 14 2018, 2:29am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 14 2018, 2:32am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

NASA is About to Launch its Next Planet-Hunting Telescope
Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Credit: NASA/GSFC

TESS will survey more than 200,000 of the brightest stars in the sky during its two-year mission

The search for the planets outside solar system will reach next level with the launch of NASA’s new planet-hunting mission.

Named The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS, the mission is scheduled to launch Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will look for exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. During its two years, the mission will survey more than 20 million stars and observe temporary drops in their brightness caused by planetary transits. TESS will be the most extensive mission of its kind from the orbit and is expected to find hundreds of expolanets – the term used for planets beyond our solar system.

“We're going to look at every single one of those stars," said the mission's principal investigator George Ricker from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "All astronomers for centuries to come are really going to focus on these objects. This is really a mission for the ages."

There are potentially thousands of planets lurking outside our solar system – including those that could support life. If successful, TESS will able to provide many new targets for the search for habitable worlds.

"One of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an astronomer finds a planet in a star's habitable zone, will it be interesting from a biologist's point of view?" said George Ricker. "We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers."

TESS is virtually the successor of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. To date, around 5,000 planet candidates have been found and most of these were discovered by Kepler. Kepler finds planets by detecting changes in the brightness as a planet passes in front of its host star and its discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of planets and planetary systems. But now Kepler is running out of fuel and its successful journey is expected to end in the next few months.

TESS will be an ideal replacement for Kepler telescope. It is equipped with more powerful cameras that can cover a sky area 400 times larger than that monitored by Kepler. The stars that TESS will study are also 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets.

"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars," said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds whose properties can be probed by NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and other missions."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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