“A Mission for the Ages” –NASA’s New Exoplanet Hunting Satellite TESS Readies for April Launch (WATCH Video)

 

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Final preparations are underway at Kennedy Space Center to get NASA's next planet-hunting spacecraft, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an astrophysics Explorer-class mission between NASA and MIT, ready for its planned April 16 launch. NASA's new alien-planet hunting satellite arrived at the space center on Feb, 12 after a 17-hour drive down from Orbital's facility in Dulles, Virginia, and was ushered inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) to be readied for launch.


The TESS mission, which is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will spend at least two years studying more than 200,000 of the closest and brightest stars in our solar neighborhood. TESS will use four cameras to scan the entire sky, searching for alien planets outside our Solar System.

 

 

The mission will monitor over 500,000 of the brightest stars in the sky, searching for dips in their brightness that would indicate a planet transiting across. TESS is predicted to find over 3,000 exoplanet candidates, ranging from gas giants to small rocky planets. About 500 of these planets are expected to be similar to Earth's size.

The stars TESS monitors will be 30-100 times brighter than those observed by Kepler, making follow-up observations much easier. Using TESS data, missions like the James Webb Space Telescope can determine specific characteristics of these planets, including whether they could support life

TESS will scan the sky, looking for tiny dips in starlight. These dips in brightness — known as transits — could indicate that one or more planets is orbiting the star. George Ricker of MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research said that the team expects to discover several thousand planets during the spacecraft's mission. "This mission is one for the ages," Ricker said during the mission briefing.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA

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