NASA's New Planet-Hunting TESS Launch Postponed To Wednesday (LISTEN Tess Podcast)

18 April, 2018, 03:32 | Author: Courtney Reynolds
  • Watch live as NASA's TESS exoplanet-hunting satellite launches into space

We've provided two ways below to watch the telescope launch into space, so bookmark this page.

The scheduled 16 April launch of the TESS satellite has been delayed. NASA TV will also broadcast a mission preview and two news conferences in the run up to this evening's launch.

While Kepler confirmed some 2,300 exoplanets and thousands more potential planet candidates, many were too distant and dim to be studied further.

NASA is on the brink of sending a satellite into space that it believes will discover thousands of new planets within the next few years. Its observation area is 400 times larger than that of Kepler.

An illustration of the TESS spacecraft in orbit. Of these, some 300 are expected to be Earth-sized and super-Earth-sized exoplanets, which are worlds no larger than twice the size of Earth. Later this year, the European Space Agency is launching the CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS), which will also follow up on what TESS finds, Jonathan Amos at the BBC reports.

Surveying almost the entire sky, the minimum two-year mission expects to find some 20,000 so-called exoplanets around nearby, bright stars, ranging from rocky Earth-size planets to gas giants. If there is a possibility of a habitable planet, TESS will report about it. Once there, TESS will spend about two years surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the Sun to search for planets outside the solar system.

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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", Hertz said.

Astronomers in the future, including those working with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, are then expected to be able to study the atmospheres of numerous planets.

TESS team partners include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, Orbital ATK, Nasa's Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. "The first thing is we're looking for is water vapor", says Sara Seager at MIT, "because all life, as we know it, needs liquid water".

And that's all in low-Earth orbit, he said, with the station wheeling in wild, unpredictable circles and half the sky blocked out by a giant planet, covering different pulsars every 45 minutes. And that is the task - TESS is to detect planets - more specifically exoplanets. "We're on this scenic tour of the whole sky, and in some ways we have no idea what we will see".

"TESS is very much a trash-treasure sort of mission", said Natalia Guerrero, deputy manager for the TESS Objects of Interest team.

"It really has a chance to find a rocky planet, that's the right distance from its star, the right temperature to have life on its surface".

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