Exoplanet Hunter TESS will be launched by NASA today

Posted April 17, 2018

NASA is due to launch this Monday its new space telescope that will go continue the search for terrestrial planets likely, perhaps, to house life. "Humans have always wondered if we are alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago the only planets we knew were the eight of our solar system, but since then we have found thousands of planets in orbit around other stars, and we think that all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets", he said.

NASA is sending a telescope on a mission to detect planets similar to Earth outside of our solar system.

"NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - TESS - will fly in an orbit that completes two circuits around Earth every time the Moon orbits once", the space agency explains.

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"So in the next few years we might even be able to walk outside and point at a star and know that it has a planet". "But I want to add that we care about all the planets that we find, not just the habitable ones - because for a variety of reasons, all the planets matter". When finished, it's expected that TESS will have surveyed 85% of the visible sky on its planet-hunting mission.

She told reporters on the eve of the launch: 'It was created to look at 150,000 stars in a fairly wide field of view without blinking, for four years.

TESS is designed as a follow-on to the USA space agency's Kepler spacecraft, which was the first of its kind and launched in 2009. The $337 million mission will focus on planets circling bright stars that are less than 300 light-years from Earth.

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George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: 'TESS is equipped with four very sensitive cameras that will be able to monitor almost the entire sky.

The mission is expected to catalog more than 200,000 candidates for exoplanets. It uses the method of transits *, detecting planets as they pass in front of their star, whose light they momentarily dim.

After TESS identifies its candidates, scientists around the world will make further observations to confirm that they really are planets, and determine whether they're gas giants like Jupiter and Neptune, or rocky planets like Earth and Mars.

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"These are the exoplanets that will be easiest to follow up, so that we can study the planets in great detail and learn more about their characteristics", Paul Hertz, who heads NASA's astrophysics division, said during a pre-launch briefing.