SpaceX Successfully Launches NASA's TESS planet-hunter

Terry Joseph
April 20, 2018

The satellite will measure a planet's size and orbit, and then follow-up efforts will measure mass, allowing astronomers to better understand its composition. "We can see the shadow, effectively, of the planet as it passes in front of its host star".

Sara Seager, another MIT researcher who is working on the satellite, said TESS may enlighten us as to whether Earth has a twin planet out there.

The spacecraft will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets. They've found an entire solar system with as many planets as our own, further destroying humanity's hope our solar system is somehow special.

The majority of Kepler's planets are too far away and circle stars that are too dim for these kinds of observations.

Observatories in Hawaii are uniquely situated to observe many stars in both hemispheres, UH officials said.

TESS will build upon the legacy of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009 and has since identified more than 2,300 confirmed exoplanets. "I think public interest will catch on like wildfire".

However, Mr Zurbuchen noted TESS's discoveries are expected to bring us closer to answering that lingering question.

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"We're going to be able study individual planets and start talking about the differences between planets".

"TESS is equipped with four highly sensitive cameras, which will allow you to monitor nearly the entire sky", says George Ricker (George Ricker), principal investigator of the mission, of mit, who heads the project. Kepler focused on a given section of the sky and looked for Earth-like planets.

What will TESS find? The orbit is carefully planned to account for the moon's gravity also.

"Kepler was a "statistical mission", explains Guerrero, "meaning it carefully measured everything within a specific patch of sky it observed and completed a "census" of the stars in that field of view". During the orange part, when TESS is closest to Earth, it will transmit that data to the ground.

TESS will carry out a broad sky survey during its two-year prime mission, covering about 85 percent of the sky.

This evening, NASA's next planet hunter took to the skies aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. And "first light" will come soon: TESS' science instrument, which consists of four CCD cameras, will be switched on about eight days after launch, mission team members have said.

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