Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

NASA to launch satellite in search of new worlds

NASA to launch satellite in search of new worlds

TESS is the first NASA spacecraft that SpaceX will launch that is created to peer deep into the cosmos.

TESS, which follows the successful Kepler mission and the follow-up K2 mission, will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets.

"TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study", said Ricker. TESS will replace the NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which has discovered 2,650 alien worlds till now.

Even in terms of sky-area coverage, TESS goes way beyond Kepler.

But now it's time to pass the torch.

Sixty days after the launch and following tests of its instruments, the satellite will begin its initial two-year mission.

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An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star in any solar system other than the one Earth calls home. Combined, those data will help scientists characterize the planet: Is it a small, rocky world like Earth?

A private sector space transportation firm founded and run by Tesla's Elon Musk, SpaceX has conducted launches for NASA in the past as well. Researchers would be able to use it to analyze the starlight that filters through the planets' atmospheres, looking for hints of habitability. That research could reveal "biosignatures" - molecules including oxygen and methane that are often generated by living organisms.

"TESS forms a bridge from what we have learned about exoplanets to date and where we are headed in the future", said Jeff Volosin, TESS project manager at Nasa's Goddard Spaceflight Center. If planets are everywhere, then it is time for us to find the planets that are closest to us orbiting bright nearby stars, because these will be the touchstone system.

"We have this whole army of observatories and astronomers on the ground waiting eagerly to be told, 'Here's a candidate, '" she said. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. For that, astronomers must await missions that are still in their concept phase, and will not launch for almost two decades.

NASA's TESS mission hopes to find exoplanets beyond our solar system. Based on how much of a dip in light a planet causes in its star, we can determine that planet's size.

But she says that's where astronomers now have the best chance of finding something with the available technology.

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