The newest satellite sent into space to hunt for alien worlds will begin the search before the end of July. TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, was launched to the Earth’s orbit on 18 April with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
At the moment, according to NASA, TESS is at the end of its testing phase. In an update on 11 July, NASA officials wrote:
“The TESS team has reported that the spacecraft and cameras are in good health, and the spacecraft has successfully reached its final science orbit. The team continues to conduct tests in order to optimize spacecraft performance, with a goal of beginning science at the end of July.”
TESS should have been able to start science operations in mid-June, but they were delayed for almost six weeks.
The new satellite will look for hundreds of stars in the neighborhood of our solar system, checking for brightness dips caused by planets crossing in front of their stars. The Kepler space telescope has used the same “transit method,” discovering 70% of the 3,750 exoplanets known to man. However, TESS team members said that their satellite could do a lot more than what Kepler did.
Finding Alien Worlds for the James Webb Space Telescope to Analyze
TESS will find worlds that have an atmosphere which can be analyzed by other instruments – like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2021. TESS can enable follow-up work, which will include searching for oxygen, methane and other gases (they could be proof of alien life.)
TESS ‘s final science orbit is quite special compared to other spacecraft’s. TESS will fly around the Earth in an elliptical path. It will take 13.7 days to get close to our planet (108,000 kilometers) and far away from it (373,000 km). The mission team explained that this way, TESS will be exposed to low levels of radiation and low thermal variation.
NASA expects TESS to conduct science operations for at least two years.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.