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TESS, NASA's planet-hunting space satellite, begins science operations

TESS, NASA's planet-hunting space satellite, begins science operations

Led by MIT, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for the tell-tale dips in light that occur when a planet passes in front of them (transits). TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. The space agency details how the mission will progress in the video above, including a visual of how TESS will survey the sky. Like Kepler, TESS will look for tiny dips in the brightness of individual stars caused by a planet passing between its star and the telescope in its orbit.

"I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighborhood for new worlds".

The newest planet-hunting satellite from NASA's stable has crossed our galaxy and started its hunt beyond.

The spacecraft was launched on April 18, 2018, with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The spacecraft is fitted with four powerful cameras each having a 16.8-megapixel sensor which cover a square 24-degrees wide, large enough to contain an entire constellation.

It will watch each observation sector for about 27 days before rotating to the next. Because of the overlapping of TESS's observation sectors, the spacecraft will have an area near the pole under constant observation.

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TESS is now busy searching for exoplanets outside our solar system, and the first data that it obtains will be transmitted back to Earth in August.

TESS will send that initial data to Earth in August, with new observations arriving every 13.5 days after that, mission team members said in a statement.

For updates on the progress of the mission, there is an official NASA TESS Twitter account, as well as an official website that the space agency has maintained since the development and construction stages of the telescope.

Unlike Kepler, TESS will focus on closer, brighter stars, which means scientists will be able to learn a lot more about the exoplanets the satellite detects. "It will allow us to follow up planet detections using other telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, to then better explore the properties of these planets".

"With possibly more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the odd, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover", said Hertz.


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