NASA’s TESS begins its science operations

NASA’s TESS begins its science operations

NASA’s TESS begins its science operations

First images and data will be transferred to the ground in early August, scientists will immediately begin to search for traces of exoplanets within them.

"I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighborhood for new worlds", said Paul Hertz, NASA Astrophysics division director at Headquarters, Washington. "Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the odd, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover".

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Focusing on stars that are 30 to 100 times brighter than those Kepler has surveyed, TESS will also pave the way for further observations with NASA's upcoming James Webb space telescope. It will be the same as Kepler, looking for planets by the transit method, monitoring the brightness variations of the star during the passage of the planet on its disk. These events suggest that a planet may be passing in front of a star and are called transits. The space agency plans for this mission to last two years, during which time it will likely find thousands of new planets.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

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The spacecraft, launched April 18 on a SpaceX Falcon 9, is now in its final 13.5-day orbit around the Earth and has completed checkout of its cameras. TESS has started to explore nearby stars in search for planets.

Over its two-year primary mission TESS will be able to observe about 85 percent of the sky, spending the first year studying the southern hemisphere and the second year the northern hemisphere. Each of its cameras has a 16.8-megapixel sensor covering a square 24 degrees wide - large enough to contain an entire constellation. TESS will watch each observation sector for about 27 days before rotating to the next. Because of the overlapping of TESS's observation sectors, the spacecraft will have an area near the pole under constant observation. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, for example, has identified more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets this way.

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Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

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