NASA’s TESS Satellite Is Officially on the Prowl for Planets

Credit: NASA

NASA’s newest satellite has finally started the hunt!

According to them, the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) officially started its science operations on July 25th. The first observations will reach us sometime in August, with regular reports for the next two years, at least.

TESS was launched on April 18th with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket which sent the satellite into an elliptical orbit around Earth. From there, it went on the lookout for exoplanets.

The satellite is able to measure 200,000 stars that are within 300-light years away of our Sun. It is also able to see much further than Kepler and K2 were capable to.

The spacecraft has four 16.9-megapixel CCD cameras and they each image an area of the sky that is the size of an average constellation. Each region is monitored for 27 days before TESS moves on to the next, ultimately mapping out 85% of the sky.

Since its launch, the satellite delivered a mesmerizing image of a small portion of the sky, which you can see below.


TESS takes 13.7 days to orbit around Earth and it stares out into the distance for extended periods of time, snapping photos. The satellite can catalog nearby stars, which are subjected to follow-up observations by other telescopes, if they are deemed interesting enough to be studied.

Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Whenever TESS gets close to Earth, it transmits all the data gathered for about 16 hours to NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas from the ground. Ultimately, the goal is for TESS (and its successors) to find a habitable exoplanet, which, judging by the recent photo we just saw, might just take a while.

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