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NASA's Planet-Hunter TESS Starts Hunting | Astronomy

01 August 2018

NASA's exoplanet-hunting satellite TESS is fully operational and has begun scanning the skies for distant planets, NASA reported on Friday.

An artist's illustration of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It is expected that the spacecraft will find thousands of planets using this method until the end of its journey and some of the planets could potentially support life. The change in light may indicate the presence of a planet that is passing in front of a star, making these areas prime spots to search. Each hemisphere will take a year to scan, and when all is said and done, TESS will have collected data for 85 percent of the sky.

"I'm thrilled that our planet hunter is ready to start combing the backyard of our solar system for new worlds", said Paul Hertz, NASA Astrophysics division director at Headquarters, Washington.

"Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the odd, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover", Hertz added. For a satellite, that means more than a shower and a cup of coffee: It entails a commissioning period of testing and adjustmentsbefore scientists can truly rely upon the data being beamed back to Earth.

To recall, TESS was launched on April 18, 2018, aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and is aimed at finding thousands of exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars.

According to the Agency, TESS has four telescopes with matrices a resolution of 16.8 megapixels, operating in the spectral range from 600 to 1000 nanometers.

The satellite makes its way around the Earth once every two weeks or so (13.5 days to be exact) and each time it completes and orbit it'll send back a wealth of science data.

The satellite is continuing the mission of the Kepler spacecraft, which found more than 2,000 new exoplanets.

The mission isled and operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets. This region is easily monitored by the James Webb Space Telescope, which allows the two missions to work together to first find, and then carefully study exoplanets, expanding our understanding of worlds beyond our own.

NASA's Planet-Hunter TESS Starts Hunting | Astronomy