NASA's TESS Spacecraft starts its hunt for planets


"I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighbourhood for new worlds", said Paul Hertz, NASA Astrophysics division director. The science team is ready to analyse the data and would start looking for new planets as soon as the first series of data is transmitted.

Out of the many satellites that have been used by NASA, TESS is the latest one that is searching for exoplanets outside our solar system. Using this method TESS might find thousands of new planets that we don't know of, some of which are predicted to support life. For the next two years, TESS will be monitoring numerous nearest and brightest of the stars and analyzing their periodic dips of light.

"I am incredibly pleased that our new "hunter planet" began to "sweep" the Galaxy in search of still unknown worlds".

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On April 18, TESS was first shot into Earth orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and commissioning checks were taking place up until fairly recently, as NASA noted in an update on June 11, according to Space. The four cameras form an observation sector and each observation sector will be watched 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.

"Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the unusual, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover", Hertz added. The first data that it collects will be transmitted straight back to Earth when August rolls around and will continue every 13.5 days afterward.

Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

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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", said Hertz prior to the satellite's launch. In fact, the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, developed in collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency will study these exoplanets.

TESS follows in the footsteps of NASA's iconic Kepler telescope, which in the course of two missions has identified 2,650 confirmed exoplanets, according to the space agency.

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