NASA’s TESS spacecraft’s hunt for new planets has begun - KNine Vox

NASA’s TESS spacecraft’s hunt for new planets has begun

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has started its search for planets around nearby stars. Exoplanets are the planets which exist outside our solar system.  It was launched on April 18, 2018, atop a Falcon 9 rocket and it will officially begin its science operations on July 25, 2018. TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth. TESS is headed for an orbit around Earth that no spacecraft has ever occupied — a highly elliptical path in which the satellite will circle the planet twice for every orbit the moon completes.

Led by MIT, Cambridge, TESS will find thousands of planets orbiting different nearby stars during its entire journey of two years. TESS will watch a wide variety of stars, looking for signs of planets ranging from Earth-size to larger than Jupiter. The TESS project will use an arrangement of wide-field cameras to perform a contemplate of 85% of the sky.

With TESS, it will be possible to study the mass, size, density, and orbit of a large unit of small planets, including a sample of rocky planets in the habitable zones of their host stars.  It is equipped with four wide-angle telescopes and associated charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors. TESS will also exploit a Guest Investigator program, allowing scientists from other organizations to use TESS for their own research. This will allow an additional 20,000 extraterrestrial bodies to be observed.

"I'm thrilled that our planet hunter is ready to start combing the backyard of our solar system for new worlds," said Paul Hertz, NASA Astrophysics division director at Headquarters, Washington.

"With possibly more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover," said Hertz.

TESS will observe 85 percent of the sky over its two-year prime mission and is expected to discover thousands of new worlds, as well as other astronomical objects like galaxies. We could see the first of those worlds later this year, NASA officials have said.

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