As MIT professor, Sara Seager, explained that NASA's new satellite will be the ideal tool for discovering which new exoplanets we should be studying next.
"TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds whose properties can be probed by NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and other missions", he added.
On Monday, April 16, 2018, NASA will launch their new TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey) satellite to search for alien planets orbiting distant stars. Much like NASA's Kepler space observatory, TESS will use its high-spec tech to pinpoint undiscovered planets. More than 500,000 stars will come under its gaze during its two-year lifespan.
"We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers".
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The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the heir to NASA's Kepler exoplanet mission throne, is set to orbit Earth while pointing it's viewfinders out to space.
"There's no science that will tell us life is out there right now, except that small rocky planets appear to be incredibly common", MIT exoplanet hunter Sara Seager said.
The TESS satellite will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will hunt for new exoplanets to determine if they could harbor life.
NASA's Kepler spacecraft used the same method to spot more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, majority orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light-years away. The spacecraft will scan our solar neighborhood looking for stars that exhibit "temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits", which is a sign that a previously undiscovered planet may be crossing in front of a star, NASA's website explains.
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"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars".
TESS will also be primed to identify the worlds circling red dwarfs, the small, dim stars that make up around roughly three-quarters of the stars in the sky. The satellite will spend full 13.7-day orbits observing a segment, then move on to the next one.
Now it's TESS's turn to take Keppler's discoveries one step further and narrow down the possible contenders for the next Planet Earth.
That's because Ricker's team designed a new kind of orbit - a highly elliptical 13.7-day trip that allows the spacecraft to avoid damage from Earth's Van Allen radiation belts while also bringing it close enough to regularly send back loads of image data. But since the 13 observation strips in each hemisphere overlap at the poles, TESS will have eyes on both the northern and southern polar skies for almost a year at a time.
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"TESS is going to essentially provide the catalog, like the phone book, if you will, of all the best planets for following up, for looking at their atmospheres and studying more about them."