The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short, will look for exoplanets - planets outside our solar system.
Tess is a successor to Kepler, a mission now close to the end of its fuel after a successful run in which it has identified 2,652 planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, and...
When the Kepler space telescope launched in 2009, scientists didn't know what fraction of stars hosted planets. The objective of the Kepler mission was to explore, how frequently planets occur around the stars. This satellite will cover an area 400 times larger than the Kepler Space Telescope and is scheduled to study more than 200,000 nearby stars. The satellite is not specifically meant to look for planets that can support life, but it can find planets orbiting in the habitable zone of small stars, said Seager, who serves as a deputy science director on TESS.
Kepler's field of view covered one 400th of the Milky Way and confirmed the presence of 1,284 new planets, whereas TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will observe almost the entire visible sky, with a camera array that has four 16.4-megapixel imaging units, each covering a square of sky 24 degrees across, making for a tall "segment" of the sky like a long Tetris block. NASA says it expects to find over 3,000 candidates, "ranging from gas giants to small rocky planets", with roughly 500 "to be similar to Earth's size". "TESS will be able to look at 30-50 million stars in that period".
"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", he said. If TESS lives up to scientists' predictions, it could energize our search for life in the cosmos. Every single day it seems new things are being discovered. Unfortunately, we can't really see them, we just know they are there.
"My biggest hope is that we do find planets with signs of life on them with liquid water oceans", said Seager. The Kepler telescope stared at one spot in the sky. The space shuttle. Sometimes, if you look out the window of an airplane at just the right time and place, you see something unusual - in this case a space shuttle launching to orbit.
NASA Astrophysics director Paul Hertz has said TESS will up the ante for planet research once it reaches orbit. The terms of the equation begin with the number of stars in our galaxy and proceed to the number of civilizations actively broadcasting their presence into space.
While alien planet discoveries grab headlines, data from the planet hunters can tell us much more about other aspects of our galaxy and beyond.
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