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

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

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

TESS, a space telescope set to launch Monday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, will scan the sky for exoplanets faster and better than any existing platforms, expanding our knowledge of the universe and perhaps finding a friendly neighborhood to move to.

NASA held three live briefings on Sunday to explain the ways in which TESS will be different from its planet-hunting predecessor, Kepler.

TESS will also be primed to identify the worlds circling red dwarfs, the small, dim stars that make up around roughly three-quarters of the stars in the sky.

The spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness.

TESS will watch for the same thing with a much, much broader perspective.

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The first year of observations will cover 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky and the second year will map the remaining 13 sectors of the northern sky.

The little yellow patches are Kepler's various fields of view. The deputy manager of the TESS Objects of Interest project, Natalia Guerrero said that a lot of the stars that Kepler found exoplanets around were extremely faint and really far away that made them really hard to follow up on from the ground, hence, TESS came about to be even more useful to the broader astronomical community. The more light, the more data, and often the less noise - researchers will be able to tell more about stars that are observed, and if necessary dedicate other ground or space resources towards observing them.

That data will then be sent to NASA and MIT for careful vetting, which, according to TESS scientist Elisa Quintana, will be the biggest hurdle in discerning stars from planets and assessing their characteristics.

"We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers".

Inexperienced, who has headed NASA's Planetary Sciences Division since August 2006, will begin his new job on Would possibly 1. Stars flaring or going supernova, bursts of interesting radiation, and other events could very well occur.

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That all changed with the launch of the Kepler space telescope in 2009.

This stable 13.7 day "lunar resonant" orbit, which has never been tried before, should allow TESS to operate for well beyond two years, said Professor Ricker.

TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is a device with which NASA is going to look for exoplanets that could host life. "The moon pulls the satellite on one side, and by the time TESS completes one orbit, the moon is on the other side tugging in the opposite direction". In a few years - if TESS's two-year mission is extended long enough - it could eventually find the kinds of rocky, habitable-zone planets that Kepler could.

The satellite will be traveling on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the new launch will mark yet another venture between NASA and Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

"We're going to look at every single one of those stars", said George Ricker. Now the launch is planned for a 30-second window at 6:32 Florida time; if for some reason they miss that window, they'll have to wait until the moon comes round again - a March 20 launch was already canceled.

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