Science

NASA Launches TESS To Look For New Planets

Update 2: The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite took off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:51 p.m. EDT, on time. The main-stage booster detached as planned, within minutes from launch, and landed safely on the unmanned SpaceX vessel. TESS went on toward orbit, marking the beginning of a two-year journey to discover new homes for humanity.

Update: After a short delay, NASA’s satellite TESS is preparing to launch on April 18th, from Cape Canaveral. In the next two years, the satellite will scan the sky for stars less than 300 light-years away and habitable planets. Watch the launch here!

There’s only one week left until NASA launches satellite TESS, in hopes of finding new planets.

On April 16th, the 10-years-in-the-making mission  to search for planets outside of our own Solar system will commence. With a bit of luck, it will identify one that has life on it.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is equipped to find planets of Earth’s size in “habitable zone”. It means they’re located at such a distance from the nearby stars that, in theory, they could sustain liquid water on their surface. According to the announcement, TESS will try to find stars less than 300 light-years away and much brighter than the ones spotted by the Kepler mission.

“I don’t think we know everything TESS is going to accomplish. To me, the most exciting part of any mission is the unexpected result, the one that nobody saw coming,” said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“One of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an astronomer finds a planet in a star’s habitable zone, will it be interesting from a biologist’s point of view?” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator. “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,” he added.

TESS will be launched on April 16th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. Its four wide-field cameras will provide an amazing 85% field-of-view of the sky. Until then, do admire TESS in the above video, it’s pretty amazing!

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