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Delay for Nasa's Tess planet-hunter

Delay for Nasa's Tess planet-hunter

The planned liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, remains scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT Monday night from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

An artist's representation of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, observing an M dwarf star with orbiting planets.

The planets discovered by TESS will be different, as TESS will search for planets around closer, brighter stars.

Nasa predicts that TESS could find more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of the Earth.

The mission is called TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, and it will spend two years scanning nearly the entire sky to search for alien worlds.

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 spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness. But Kepler, for its primary mission at least, only looked at a very small patch of sky, and many of its discoveries were simply too far away or too dim for other telescopes to pursue with further analysis.

TESS has been created to hunt for exoplanets orbiting around stars in Earth's immediate neighbourhood.

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NASA considers its TESS space mission to be a successor to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009.

These mysterious worlds beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, could harbour life.

The interest will be in whether they are orbiting at a distance from their host star that allows for liquid water - a prerequisite for life.

"This is the reason we're all so excited", said Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at Caltech and NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute who sits on the steering committee for TESS's follow-up working group.

"TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study", said Ricker.

"We can measure the stars' fundamental properties".

Kepler, the first planet-hunting mission of its kind, "was launched to answer one single question: How common is a planet like Earth around a star like the Sun?" said Patricia "Padi" Boyd, director of the TESS guest investigator programme at Nasa's Goddard Spaceflight Centre. In addition, we can form a picture of what the inside of a star looks like.


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