NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Has Officially Begun the Hunt for Exoplanets

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It’s been a while since NASA launched TESS, which stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. But before getting ready to officially begin looking for planets outside our solar system, TESS had to prepare for a while.

It was launched in April, and as soon as it reached a good position, it took a photo of the sky. The image contained over 200,000 stars!

Since 25 July, Tess has begun her job. It will search for exoplanets and replace Kepler, a spacecraft that has been looked for Earth-like distant planets that orbit stars like our Sun. But Kepler has done this job for about nine years, so it’s about time to retire. Kepler has found 2.650 exoplanets and still has more data to send back to Earth.

Ready to Scour the Sky

The director of the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Paul Hertz, stated that TESS “is ready to start scouring our solar system’s neighborhood for new worlds,” and that he looks “forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we’re bound to discover.”

TESS will be able to map 85% of the sky, compared to Kepler who could only check out a very small section of the sky. The new satellite has better cameras that will be able to spot planets from other solar systems that are closer to Earth. Then, it will send the information back on Earth for telescopes to study all exoplanets that have unusual features.

By looking into the small dips in the brightness of a star, TESS will spot distant planets (just like Kepler did). Scientists expect that in its first two-year mission, the satellite will find over 1,600 new exoplanets.

TESS will gather the data, and on 8 August it will be available for download. After the first results, the team can assess if they need to adjust the satellite for further surveying.

One thing is true: the mission has just started, and we are definitely going to learn a lot more about exoplanets in the future!

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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.


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