TESS: NASA, SpaceX Collaborate to Search for Exoplanets (Download PDF)

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NASA has collaborated with private space launching company SpaceX to launch Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to search for exoplanets using the transit method. TESS is designed to carry out first space borne all-sky transiting exoplanet survey. It is equipped with four wide-angle telescopes and associated charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors.

Image of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

Image of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

Image of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

  • It is planned to be launched in April 2018 on board of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force station.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

  • The primary mission objective of TESS is to survey brightest stars near Earth for transiting exoplanets over two-year period. It wouldl use array of wide-field cameras to perform all-sky survey to create catalog of thousands of exoplanet candidates using transit photometry method.

  • It will provide prime targets for further characterization by James Webb Space Telescope, as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes of the future.

  • With TESS, it would be possible to study mass, size, density and orbit of large cohort of small planets, including sample of rocky worlds in habitable zones (goldilocks zone) of their host stars.

  • This would reveal whether planets are rocky (like Earth), gas or Jovian giants (like Jupiter) or something even more unusual.

  • TESS is expected discover nearly 500 Earth-sized planets within 300 light-years of here.

  • This would let the new generation of telescopes on Earth and in space study looking for habitability, and perhaps even inhabitants.

TESS to Provide Answers to the Following Questions

TESS is the Latest Effort to Answer Questions That Have Intrigued Mankind for the Last 30 Years:

  • Is there life outside the Earth?

Are There Other Planets with Life or is It Only Earth?

Background

  • NASA’s spacecraft, Kepler, discovered near about 4, 000 possible planets in the Milky Way galaxy, after it was launched in 2009. Kepler made its way ahead to survey other star fields but soon, its pointing system broke and after having spent nine years in space, it is now running out of fuel.

  • Astronomers think there are other potentially habitable planets in our galaxy, meaning the nearest one could be as close as 10 to 15 light-years from earth. Over a decade ago, astronomers didn’t know if planets outside our solar system existed, too or, if there were any, whether they could ever be discovered or not. But post-1995, after the discovery of a planet circling the sun-like star 51 Pegasi, there has been a revolution.

- Published/Last Modified on: June 29, 2018

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