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This is how NASA's TESS will hunt for alien planets

16 April 2018

Instead of the regular care packages usually sent to NASA astronauts on the International Space Station, SpaceX hopes to fire an exoplanet satellite known as TESS into the great expanse.

TESS's mission is to monitor and catalogue over 200,000 stars in space for signs of other existing planets.

Lori Glaze, the current head of the Planetary Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Coronary heart in Greenbelt, Maryland, will turn into performing director of the Planetary Sciences Division when Inexperienced assumes his new place, firm officers talked about. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite features four wide-field cameras that will be able to monitor any changes in the brightness of these stars, however small, that would occur by an orbiting planet.

"In two seconds you could see things that were a hundred thousand to a million times fainter than what you could see with your naked eye", said Ricker, the mission's principal investigator.

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Ground-based telescopes and even the James Webb Space Telescope - expected to launch in 2020 - might be able to detect the atmospheres of exoplanets found by TESS when they do additional observations of those worlds. Launched in 2009, it was particularly interested in finding Earth-sized planets orbiting sun-like stars at a distance where water on the surface could be stable in liquid form - the so-called habitable zone.

However, don't expect us to find another Earth overnight.

It will be focusing on the brightest stars in our neighborhood: less than 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times as bright as the ones Kepler was looking at.

The survey, also known as Tess, is NASA's next step in the search for exoplanets, including those that could support life. Together, the cameras will stare at a vertical strip of the celestial sphere stretching from the pole to the equator, proceeding to a new strip every 27 days.

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Like Kepler, TESS will find exoplanets by looking for what astronomers call transits, in which planets' orbits take them in front of their host stars and temporarily block a portion of the starlight.

"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".

The space-based telescope could also study all kinds of other celestial phenomena, including supernovas, flare stars and active galaxies. But since the 13 observation strips in each hemisphere overlap at the poles, TESS will have eyes on both the northern and southern polar skies for almost a year at a time.

TESS will have enough fuel to get into the planned orbit and to get its mission done for at least 2 years.

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With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth, NASA said in an earlier statement. "The TESS planets are going to be the ones you're going to look at".

This is how NASA's TESS will hunt for alien planets