SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Successfully Launches NASA’S TESS Planet Hunting Telescope (Important) (Download PDF)


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National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), first-of-its-kind mission to discover planets outside solar system, including some that could support life on 19th April, 2018.

Image of transiting exoplanet survey satellite

Image of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

Image of transiting exoplanet survey satellite

  • Exoplanet is planet that orbits star outside our solar system. NASA launched TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) on Wednesday, 18th April, which will monitor more than 200, 000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits.
  • TESS was launched on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
  • TESS will settle into 13.7-day orbit around Earth w/help of gravitational assist from Moon.

Details on TESS Mission

  • TESS will use 6 thruster burns to travel in series of gradually extended orbits to reach Moon, which will provide gravitational assist so that TESS.

  • Spacecraft will, in actual, begin its work after about 60 days of instrument testing.

  • Once put into orbit, TESS will spend around 2 years, surveying some 200000 of brightest stars near Sun in search of planets.

  • For this two-year mission, scientists divided sky into 26 segments that Tess will observe one by one.

  • 1st year of observations will cover 13 sectors encompassing southern sky & 2nd year will map remaining 13 sectors of northern sky.

  • TESS is fixed w/4 wide-field cameras for field-of-view that covers 85 % of entire sky.

  • Satellite will be looking for phenomenon called ‘Transit’, wherein planet passing in front of its star, causes periodic & regular dip in star’s brightness.

Significance of TESS Mission

  • Exoplanets discovered by TESS will help future researchers to conduct more comprehensive follow-up studies & to assess capacity of these planets to harbour life.
  • According to NASA, “TESS scientists expect mission will catalog thousands of planet candidates & vastly increase current number of known exoplanets.
  • Of these, approx. 300 are expected to be Earth-sized & super-Earth-sized exoplanets, which are worlds no larger than twice size of Earth.
  • TESS will find most promising exoplanets orbiting our nearest & brightest stars, giving future researchers rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies. “

Current Exoplanet Count

  • Number of known exoplanets stands at over 3, 700.
  • Another 4, 500 objects are strong contenders to become exoplanets.
  • About 50 are believed to potentially habitable. They have right size & right orbit to support surface water &, at least theoretically, to support life.

What is TESS?

  • Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) & managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.

  • George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics & Space Research, is Principal Investigator for mission.

  • 4 wide-field cameras of TESS were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

How Does TESS Work?

  • Tess will look for dips in visible light of stars, which requires that planets cross stars in our line of sight.
  • Repetitive, periodic dips can reveal planet or planets orbiting star.
  • Transit photometry, which looks at how much light object puts out at any given time, can tell researchers lot about planet.

Period of Mission

  • TESS will survey entire sky over period of 2 years.
  • Satellite will do this by breaking it up into 26 diff. sectors & cameras on satellite will survey each sector for 27 days.

Institutes Behind Tess

Tess team includes

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

  • NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

  • MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory

  • Orbital ATK

  • NASA’s Ames Research Center

  • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

  • Space Telescope Science Institute

TESS will be launched using Falcon 9, rocket manufactured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)

  • Formed in 1958, 59 years ago.

  • Headquarter – Washington, U. S.

  • Led by – Jim Bridenstine

  • Motto – to reach for new heights & reveal unknown for benefit of humankind.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 24, 2018


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