NASA's New Planet Hunter TESS Set To Launch Monday

NASA spacecraft aims to put mystery planets on galactic map - CBS46 News

NASA spacecraft aims to put mystery planets on galactic map - CBS46 News

Over the past several years Kepler Space Telescope of NASA has accelerated the pace of discovery, making it transparent the galaxy is awash with planets.

That camera, an engineering model of the four being launched with NASA 's TESS mission, revealed a night thick with stars. The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come.

"They're a cool, red star, and from the small number of those that have been discovered by Kepler, it looks like they have about twice as many planets as stars like the Sun".

Ground-based telescopes and even the James Webb Space Telescope - expected to launch in 2020 - might be able to detect the atmospheres of exoplanets found by TESS when they do additional observations of those worlds.

Although about to start a new campaign, it is gradually running out of fuel and drifting further away from Earth.

Kepler stared at just one small patch of the heavens whose stars are up to 3,000 light-years away.

Once blasted into space, it will eventually sit in a special orbit (red) that goes out to 250,000 kilometres then sweeps back to within 100,000 kilometres of Earth. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds".

Like Kepler, TESS will find exoplanets by looking for what astronomers call transits, in which planets' orbits take them in front of their host stars and temporarily block a portion of the starlight.

These planets will be some of our closest neighbours, orbiting stars we can actually see when we look up at the sky. And because the stars are so dim, their habitable zones are much more compact, which means TESS could witness multiple transits within each of its 27-day observing periods.

While looking for the exoplanets, TESS would also witness other unrelated phenomena, such as possible supernovae or the other fast-changing objects.

Because of those tight observing windows, the spacecraft won't be able to pick up planets with longer Earth-sized orbits, as Kepler could.

"TESS is the natural next step, by searching for planets near our very nearby bright stars so that we can do the follow up measurements partly that Paul was talking about and by doing those measurements we hope to actually identify all the world's we've been dreaming about", said Sara Seager, TESS Deputy Director of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Once it safely enters space, the craft will receive a timely gravitational assist from the moon, which will insert it into a highly eccentric orbit that brings it close to earth about every two weeks. There are 13 such segments in the sky's Northern hemisphere and 13 in the southern; by the time TESS has focused on them all, it will have checked 85 percent of the visible sky.

TESS will have enough fuel to get into the planned orbit and to get its mission done for at least 2 years. "The TESS planets are going to be the ones you're going to look at".

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